NRA joins legal fight challenging Washington's assault weapons ban
Less than 24 hours after Gov. Jay Inslee signed Washington's ban on assault weapons into law, three lawsuits have emerged that aim to challenge the new law in court.
On Wednesday, the National Rifle Association joined the legal fight with its lawsuit, Banta vs Ferguson, filed in the Eastern District of Washington. The NRA argues the ban is "blatantly unconstitutional."
“Instead of arresting, prosecuting and punishing criminals, Gov. Inslee is focusing on restricting the rights of law-abiding Americans who use these rifles for a variety of lawful purposes. The people of Washington deserve better,” said Aoibheann Cline, Washington state director of the NRA-ILA, in a statement.
“The Supreme Court long-ago ruled that states cannot ban firearms that are in common use," Cline said, further commenting that AR-15 style rifles are among the most popular products sold in the United States, and are therefore common.
The NRA is also arguing that Washington's prohibition goes further than other states that already ban assault style firearms, and includes some types of shotguns and pistols.
The Silent Majority Foundation has also filed a lawsuit over the assault weapons ban. As with other lawsuits, the SMF seeks a restraining order, which would temporarily halt enforcement of the ban.
SMF filed its lawsuit in Grant County Superior Court on behalf of two gun stores, Guardian Arms and Millard Sales, along with residents Ted Hile, Paul Hill, Jaxon Holman, Michael McKee, Nathan Poplawski, Edgar Salazar, and Brina Yearout.
According to a statement from SMF:
"SMF received interest from potential plaintiffs around the state, but decided to bring the action in the county from which a majority of interested plaintiffs resided. The overreach of SHB 1240 was evidenced from the widespread interest from individual citizens who wished to challenge the prohibitions, as well as the outpouring of interest from firearms dealers, law enforcement and military veterans, disabled individuals who will no longer be able to purchase accessories and parts to modify weapons they use for self-defense, and democratic voters who think the state has gone too far under the auspices of public safety.
The provisions of SHB 1240 will do nothing to curb crime, and only impair the right of law-abiding citizens to continue purchasing the most commonly owned type of firearm in the country. Semiautomatic firearms have been in widespread use for more than a century, and are as American as baseball and apple pie."
SMF says it is prepared to take the case to Washington's Supreme Court. Founded in 2021, the group is a newer player in Washington's gun rights debate. According to its Facebook page, SMF was created to protect "America’s constitution and theological foundation. We support, protect and defend the constitution of our United States through education, advocacy and litigation."
Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation was the first to file a lawsuit, within hours of Inslee signing the bill Tuesday. SAF filed its lawsuit in the Western District of Washington, citing Second Amendment and 14th Amendment arguments.
Washington's ban on assault weapons prohibits the sale or import of semiautomatic rifles, as well as some shotguns and pistols. The bill lists more than 60 firearms to be specifically prohibited. Current owners of such firearms are allowed to keep and maintain them. Attorney General Bob Ferguson pushed for such a ban seven times before this recent bill was passed by state lawmakers. He took part in helping craft and promote the bill.
During Tuesday's signing ceremony, where Gov. Inslee signed the ban into law, Ferguson commented that the potential for lawsuits was top of mind while drafting the bill.
"We spent a lot of time carefully crafting the legislation being mindful of the U.S. Supreme Court and recent rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, and doing everything we could to craft a piece of legislation that we thought could best withstand the inevitable legal challenge," Ferguson said.
While it hasn't filed a lawsuit challenging the new ban, the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club is another gun rights group that has opposed it. The left-leaning gun club does not generally align politically with other gun rights organizations.
According to a statement provided to KUOW by the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club:
"Gun laws are classist and benefit those already in possession of firearms, which marginalized people are less likely to currently be among, while also being the least likely to be protected by law enforcement, if at all. Furthermore, the so called assault weapons ban gives exemption to the police, meaning that it is not truly a ban on assault weapons sales and transactions. Once again, the self described 'progressive' WA state government have proven themselves to be the opposite of pacifists while they stand behind state sanctioned violence."