NRA sues state of Washington, Attorney General

Lawsuit claims new gun measure is unconstitutional.

The NRA and a group of gun rights proponents filed a lawsuit on Thursday challenging the constitutionality of state Initiative 1639, which, among other things, raises the purchasing age for semi-automatic rifles to 21.

The Second Amendment Foundation, two gun sellers, a 19-year-old competitive shooter and three others joined the NRA as plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state of Washington and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Seattle, claims the initiative violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution by preventing gun dealers from selling semi-automatic rifles to out-of-state purchasers, and infringes upon the Second Amendment rights of adults under 21 by restricting what types of firearms they can buy.

“By preventing the sale to otherwise qualified adults under age 21 of certain rifles,” the complaint states, the initiative “impermissibly burdens their exercise of rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Among the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit is 19-year-old Nathaniel Casey, a college student in the Army reserves who has been trained on fully automatics. Casey intends to purchase a .22 long rifle, the complaint says, “for less expensive target practice” when not on duty.

I-1639 passed earlier this month as a state ballot measure, with 59 percent support. In addition to restricting the sale of semi-automatics, it also mandates enhanced background checks, a 10-day waiting period and firearm safety training for the purchase of the weapons, and implements safe storage laws.

In Kitsap County, 57 percent voted in favor of the measure.

In response to the lawsuit, supporters of the initiative say they anticipated something like it.

“We always expected the NRA or the gun lobby in general to sue and try to stop I-1639,” Tallman Trask, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, told the Seattle Times. Because they “can’t stop it at the ballot box.”

It is not the first time the NRA has gone to the courts to oppose the law; earlier this year, the gun-rights group sued for what it called an unlawful signature-gathering process, claiming the font size was too small on the signature sheet, among other infractions. A county superior court ruled in favor of the NRA, but the Washington State Supreme Court overturned the ruling on August 24 , sending the initiative on to the ballot.

Barring action from the courts, the provision raising the minimum age on semi-automatics will go into effect on January 1. The rest of the law is scheduled to take effect July 1.

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