In November, Washington voters spoke overwhelmingly, passing with nearly 60 percent of the vote a sweeping array of new gun regulations.
But, it turns out, voters might not have had the last word.
In at least 13 mostly rural counties across Washington, from the Pacific Coast to the eastern wheat fields, county sheriffs have publicly pledged not to enforce the new law, known as Initiative 1639, citing their personal opposition to it.
“My job as a sheriff is to throw bad guys in jail, but it’s also to protect the constitutional rights of citizens of our county,” said Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer, who said he will not be enforcing the new law. “I follow the rule of law when I believe it’s constitutional.”
Sheriffs in Grays Harbor, Pacific, Mason, Kittitas, Yakima, Klickitat, Grant, Benton, Franklin, Adams, Lincoln, Ferry and Stevens counties — where majorities of voters opposed 1639 — have all said they will not enforce the new law.
In King County, which has close to three times as many voters as those 13 counties combined, 76 percent supported the ballot measure and Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht co-wrote the argument in favor of it in the state voters’ guide. Last week, she said the initiative “can be refined,” but that it’s up to the courts to determine its constitutionality.
“I took an oath to uphold the law,” Johanknecht said in a prepared statement. “As law enforcement leaders, we defy that oath and betray the public trust if we pick and choose which laws we will uphold.”