Saturday’s passage of an assault weapons ban by the Washington State Senate is a big win for gun safety in America — a historic legislative achievement that will help protect our communities our communities from the scourge of gun violence.
Local firearm fanatics like Alan Gottlieb and Dave Workman don’t see it that way.
The Senate’s vote has prompted fresh howls of protest from them. On the same morning that people were being gunned down in Louisville, Kentucky by another mass shooter, they were decrying SHB 1240 and promising that would it be challenged in court — an action Attorney General Bob Ferguson is expecting.
“One or more lawsuits challenging this legislation will almost certainly be filed within days, if not hours, of Governor Jay Inslee’s signing,” Gottlieb predicted. “Ultimately, we expect this law to be nullified by the courts as a violation of the Second Amendment and Washington State’s constitution. In the meantime, of course, Evergreen State gun owners will continue to be treated like second-class citizens by the self-righteous zealots behind the ban, while the criminal element will remain undeterred and unencumbered.
“Proponents of this legislation have touted the results of a poll done last year by the Northwest Progressive Institute showing that 56 percent of Washington voters support a ban,” he continued. “What they overlook is that constitutional rights are not subject to popularity polls, a fact we expect the courts to remind them about in the days ahead.
I guess Gottlieb didn’t bother to watch the press conference at which we unveiled our assault weapons ban polling, or he’d be aware that Attorney General Bob Ferguson discussed the constitutionality of the proposed ban with the press then as well as since. Gottlieb is wrong in alleging we haven’t given it any thought.
Workman, for his part, cited an unscientific poll (he even admitted it was unscientific) as he grasped for some straws to hang his hat on:
An unscientific online poll by KOMO News in Seattle — the regional ABC affiliate — revealed overwhelming opposition to the gun ban legislation, with 78 percent opposing, 19 percent supporting and 3 percent “not sure.”
Contrast that with our research and SurveyUSA’s, which is scientific and doesn’t consist mainly of responses from people who think like Workman or Gottlieb. KOMO’s online poll has no validity; the data is meaningless.
For a law like SHB 1240 to stick, it has to pass muster in both the courts and the court of public opinion, because opponents can be expected to turn to both. Public opinion research — or, to use Gottlieb’s phrasing, “popularity polls” — are thus very important and helpful. They give us a very good indication of where the majority of the public stands. And it’s not with the firearm fanatics.
Gottlieb and Workman are very aware that the people are not on their side. They’ve seen gun safety initiatives pass repeatedly (in 2014, 2016, and 2018) at the ballot. They have no reason to doubt our public opinion research.
So they are putting their faith in the courts, projecting confidence that judges and justices will agree with their warped interpretation of the Second Amendment and Article I, Section 24 of the State Constitution. In their view, pretty much any legislation that makes it harder to get a gun or fire a gun is unconstitutional.
They believe, in short, that guns should have more rights than people do.
Never mind what our founders said. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” reads the Declaration of Independence.
For firearm fanatics, those “unalienable Rights” of people are a secondary concern. More important to them than lives, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness is the manufacture, sale, import, and availability of guns. It’s as if the guns are alive. The concern these firearm fanatics have for guns is really something.
The more guns, the better; the more ammunition; the better. There’s never enough — and no amount of mass shootings will make them feel differently. In fact, after a mass shooting, they argue that more guns is the answer, and they make sure that Republican state legislators listen to them and act accordingly.
As firearm fanatics, these folks subscribe to a different set of beliefs about fundamental rights in our country. They think that all guns are created equal.
People are expendable, guns are sacrosanct. If a few Kentuckians won’t be going home to their families tonight, well, that’s just the price of freedom… for guns.
Accordingly, they argue that we cannot ban weapons of war like the AR-15 rifle, even though those weapons have no useful purpose other than efficiently killing human beings. (They certainly are not needed to hunt “varmints,” as some Republican legislators have lamely tried to argue at a few different junctures.)
Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Solicitor General Noah Purcell are expecting Gottlieb and Workman’s legal challenges. They will be ready to defend SHB 1240 once it becomes law. As they have noted in their briefs to lawmakers (example), other states’ assault weapons bans have withstood constitutional scrutiny.
Connecticut’s ban was challenged around a decade ago; the Supreme Court’s right wing majority refused to take up the case in 2016.
The Supreme Court refused on Monday to hear a Second Amendment challenge to a Connecticut law banning many semiautomatic rifles. The law, enacted in 2013 in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, made it a crime to sell or possess the firearms, which critics call assault weapons.
The decision not to hear the case, not long after the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, does not set a Supreme Court precedent. But it is part of a trend in which the justices have given at least tacit approval to broad gun-control laws in states and localities that choose to enact them.
We don’t know the future, but we know we have an obligation to each other to stop the scourge of gun violence in our country. Assault weapon bans have so far been allowed to stand, even in the John Roberts — Samuel Alito era. It is necessary and appropriate that we put one on Washington’s books and continue our work for even more sensible gun safety legislation to protect our people.