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Meet the Washington Sheriff That Will Not Enforce I-1639

Posted by William Kirk, Partner | Nov 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

Republic, Washington is a quiet town, tucked away in the Northeast corner of our State.  But the Ferry County seat might possibly become the center of the national gun control debate due to its reaction (or potential inaction) to I-1639.

The Republic, Washington, City Council is mulling legislation to shield itself from state and national laws that limit Second Amendment gun rights, including the recently passed Initiative 1639.  Mayor Elbert Koontz has stated that Republic City Council will begin discussing the idea of becoming a “sanctuary city.” As expected, the idea has mass approval from the citizens.

The idea was sparked by a message Republic police Chief Loren Culp posted two weeks ago to the Republic Police Department's Facebook page.  Culp wrote in the Facebook post that the proposed ordinance would “prevent federal and state infringement on the right to keep and bear arms; nullifying all federal and state acts in violation of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Article 1 Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution.”

Culp said he has seen a few counties in Oregon and Illinois that have passed similar ordinances, but he doesn't know how likely such a measure is to pass in Republic.  Either way, Culp said, he's instructing Republic police officers to not enforce I-1639 when it becomes law on Jan. 1.

“We will not have officers violate the rights of our citizens,” he said.  The proposed ordinance is in response to I-1639, which state voters approved earlier in November.  I-1639 raises the age limit to buy some weapons (semi-automatic assault rifles) from 18 to 21 and opens a gateway to prosecute people who sell guns to customers who can't legally own them. It also requires guns to be safely stored at home.

One of the bigger issues that Culp and his Department have with the new law is their belief that it holds gun owners liable if the gun is stolen and used in a crime.

Republic's legislative efforts have drawn national attention from people like singer and guitarist Ted Nugent, also an advocate for Second Amendment rights. Nugent shared the post on his Facebook page on Thursday, drawing more than 10,000 responses on the social media network.  In his Facebook post, Nugent wrote, “So many oath violating bureaucrats have lost their souls. Young Americans willing to fight & die for Constitutional freedoms certainly have the right to those freedoms! Stand!!”

Many nationwide are taking notice of this movement.  Koontz said the city is getting a call every 15 minutes about the initiative.

“People from all over the state calling and texting,” Koontz said.

As far as repercussions, Koontz said the City Council is gathering information on what it could expect from state or federal blow back.

How will this play out?  Republic police officers can choose to not enforce the law, but it makes the city more liable for lawsuits, said Spokane City Councilman Breean Beggs, who's also a former staff attorney at the Center for Justice civil rights firm in the Inland Northwest. The state could assess penalties against the City as well.  Considering the extreme political nature by which the Attorney General's Office has been run since Bob Ferguson took over, Republic is likely to face several challenges from within the State.  The State cold pass laws which reduce state funding for cities that don't enforce the law.  

But this quiet little town in Northeastern, Washington might soon become the epicenter of the national gun control debate.  With several cities now acting as "Sanctuary Cities" in terms of Federal Immigration Law, what now becomes of a municipality that becomes a "Sanctuary City" for Constitutional Rights?  

For some reason, I think we are going to be talking a lot more about Republic, Washington.  

About the Author

William Kirk, Partner

Bill Kirk has been named a Super Lawyer by Washington Law and Politics Magazine every year since 2003. He currently serves on the Board of Regents to the National College for DUI Defense and is the President of the Washington Foundation for Criminal Justice. Bill is one of only two attorneys in this state to pass the National College's Board Certification Exam.

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