On December 13, 2014, thousands of protesters rallied at the Washington State Capitol to openly violate a new gun control law in front of law enforcement and government officials. In this article Doug shares his thoughts on the rally and photos from the day.
On the morning of Saturday, December 13th, my friend John Rawlings and I headed south toward the Washington State Capitol to participate in an event to protest a new gun control law. We arrived early and were able to watch as thousands of people slowly emerged from the fog to gather together on the lawn. The diversity in the crowd was inspiring – old and young, men and women, gay and straight, religious and agnostic, all economic levels, all races, colors and creeds. From people in wheelchairs to children playing in the piles of fallen leaves it truly was a cross-section of people from all walks of life who had come together for a common cause.
I’d never attended a “protest” before so I didn’t really know what to expect. What I did notice, however, was that this wasn’t like most of the other protests we’ve seen in the media lately. First, the crowd was heavily armed, with most people openly carrying both a rifle and a handgun along with their signs and flags. There were also only a handful of police officers in regular uniforms who were clearly not bothered by the presence of all the armed people. Not surprisingly, both the protesters and the police were incredibly polite and pleasant to be around. All indications point to the police acting the way they did being a direct reflection of how the protesters conducted themselves. Also, very much unlike the Occupy protests, and others we’ve seen recently, there wasn’t a shred of garbage left behind or a single piece of property damaged when the event had ended.
There were no arrests.
There are many excellent write-ups of what the 18 pages of I-594 include. In sum, it now makes it a crime to “transfer” a firearm without going through a complex, expensive and time consuming background check process. Backed by a handful of millionaires and billionaires, it was disingenuously “sold” to Washington voters as though it was about background checks on purchases only but, in reality, the law includes “transfers” which causes it to reach far beyond sales alone. Even the state Attorney General’s statement in the official Voter’s Guide on current gun laws was untrue and misleading.
"In Washington, a background check is only required to buy a pistol, and only if the seller is a firearms dealer."
I-594 made it a crime for one police officer to hand another police officer their personally owned firearm without going through the background check process, fee collection and serial number registration with the state. The same applies to someone using their own gun to teach their friend (or a group of scouts, etc) how to safely handle firearms and shoot at a range. The list of everyday situations that were suddenly criminalized is extensive and, while there are a few “exceptions” written into the law, they’re not clearly defined and are extremely narrow in what they cover. The penalty for the first violation is a gross misdemeanor and subsequent violations are class c felonies.
"The term “transfer” and the various derivatives of such word, shall include selling, assigning, pledging, leasing, loaning, giving away, or otherwise disposing of."
During the rally people openly violated the law by handing firearms to one another and publicly bought and sold firearms, often on-stage using the microphone – all of it done without submitting to any background checks. There were speakers, including state representatives, who reiterated how the law is flawed, how it was disingenuously sold to the voters and what efforts they planned to take to combat the measure in their next legislative session. There were also discussions of how the law infringed on the 2nd Amendment and impaired the right of the individual citizen as outlined in the State of Washington Constitution.
"The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men."
The event really illustrated how unenforceable I-594 is, particularly given that law enforcement knows it will do absolutely nothing to decrease gun violence and were opposed to it in the first place. Now even Sheriffs and Prosecutors are beginning to officially say that they’re not going to enforce it. Despite the unenforceable nature of the law, it’s still part of the gradual erosion of the 2nd Amendment, which unfortunately means that I-594 will have to be dismantled one piece at a time through the court system. Similar to the situation in Connecticut in early 2014 where gun owners simply chose not to comply with a new law requiring gun registration, we’re seeing the same thing happen here. I personally don’t know any firearms owners in Washington who are complying with the law currently or who intend to comply with the law in the future. Criminals, by definition, do not comply with laws and now otherwise productive and upstanding citizens are choosing not to do so as well. Washington was a test-case for this strategy and, due to it’s success, they’re not stopping here. Their campaign of pushing misinformation with millions of dollars is already targeting other states for the next election with the goal of eventually rolling it out across the country.
* Photography courtesy of John Rawlings
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