By Lou Marzeles

I-1639 ordered to cease certification


August 22, 2018

A controversial Washington State initiative that would raise the age to buy semiautomatic rifles to 21 has hit a legal snag. Court action on Friday constituted a significant speed bump to the initiative, though some law experts do not expect it to be halted.

The measure would also require enhanced background checks, secure storage of firearms in homes, and safety training to purchase semiautomatic rifles.

In Thurston County Superior Court Friday, Judge James Dixon heard arguments in the lawsuit over Initiative 1639 and the legality of the petition sheets used to collect signatures. The case was brought against Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who had certified the initiative for the November ballot.

Dixon ruled that, due to the petition sheets failing to include the "readable, full, true, and correct copy of the proposed measure," I-1639 was not in compliance with RCW 29A.72.100. The judge in essence ruled that technical formatting of the petition sheets was not in keeping with legal requirements.

Wyman, who certified the petitions July 27, thanked the court for hearing the matter in a timely fashion. "No matter the issue, this office has a long track record of protecting the people's constitutional right to initiative and referendum," Wyman added. Whenever questions are raised about petitions submitted by initiative-backers facing a statutory deadline, my office has consistently acted accordingly."

Dixon's decision was immediately appealed by an attorney for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. Given the Supreme Court's past pattern of dismissing technical issues when considering petitions, many legal observers expect the decision to be struck down. The Supreme Court is holding time for oral arguments on Aug. 28, according to a report in The Seattle Times.

Hugh Spitzer, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law, considers it likely that the high court will overturn Dixon's decision, according to the Times report. It quotes Spitzer as saying that Dixon's ruling was "inconsistent with a century of case law."


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