Law & the Courts

Washington Gun Rights Group Sues to Block Semi-Automatic Rifle Purchase Restrictions

AR-15 rifles are displayed for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 6, 2017. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

A coalition of gun rights groups that includes the National Rifle Association (NRA) to block a recently passed Washington state ballot measure that raises the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle to 21, among other restrictions.

In addition to raising the minimum purchase age, Initiative 1639, which passed with backing from 60 percent of voters, requires that individuals pass an enhanced background check and take a firearms safety course before purchasing a semi-automatic rifle.

The NRA partnered with the Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation to challenge the legislation in U.S. District Court in Seattle on the grounds that it violates the second amendment rights of Americans under 21.

“We are disappointed that too many voters were fooled into supporting this 30-page gun control scheme, despite overwhelming law enforcement opposition,” Second Amendment Foundation Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb said in a statement. “This measure will have a chilling effect on the exercise of the constitutional rights of honest citizens while having no impact on criminals, and we will not let it go unchallenged.”

The plaintiffs in the suit, a number of gun sellers as well as two would-be gun buyers under 21, argue that “by preventing their purchase of certain rifles, [the initiative] impermissibly burdens their exercise of rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The suit does not, however, directly challenge the enhanced background check or the gun safety training course requirements.

Tallman Trask, spokesman for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which sponsored the ballot initiative, dismissed the legal challenge as a toothless, last-ditch effort to subvert the will of the electorate.

“We always expected the NRA or the gun lobby in general, to sue and try to stop I-1639,” he said, adding that the gun rights groups “can’t stop it at the ballot box.”

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