Far-right groups to rally at gun shop this month

Patriot Prayer, ‘WA 3%’ head to Washougal, challenge gun law

Patriot Prayer and the Washington Chapter of the “Three Percenters” group will host a rally from 5 to 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Limitless America store, located at 501 26th St., in Washougal.

Patriot Prayer’s founder, Joey Gibson, of Vancouver, said the rally is intended to “get a fire going” amongst people “who want to stand up and protect the (United States) Constitution.”

At issue is Initiative 1639 (I-1639), a ballot measure passed by Washington voters in the November 2018 midterm election that strengthened the state’s gun-safety laws — raising the legal age to buy a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21; requiring semiautomatic rifle buyers to pass an annual background check, complete an approved training course and wait 10 days before obtaining their weapon; and developing a “dangerous access prevention” law that will hold gun owners responsible for safely storing their weapons and keeping them away from people who are not eligible to possess a firearm.

Paul Kramer, of Mukilteo, Washington, sponsored the initiative after a teenager purchased an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and opened fire at a Mukilteo house party in July 2016, killing three other teens and severely injuring Kramer’s 18-year-old son, Will.

The shooter later said he wished he had not been allowed to purchase the AR-15, and stated in court: “It was the ease of acquiring a gun that enabled me to act on my emotion. … I wish they never sold me a firearm. I wish I was never legally allowed to buy one.”

Rally organizers hope local officials will not enforce law, despite majority support

Washington state voters passed the sweeping gun-safety initiative with 59 percent approval in November 2018. In Clark County, 54 percent of voters approved the ballot measure. In Camas-Washougal, the approval rating was even stronger, with about 56 percent of voters casting a “yes” on the gun-safety initiative.

The new law’s age restrictions went into effect in January. The other provisions set forth in the ballot measure will be implemented in July.

Since its passage, I-1639 has attracted its fair share of opposition, mostly from the National Rifle Association, groups like Patriot Prayer, gun shop owners and law enforcement agencies in the state’s more rural, conservative areas. Sheriffs in Adams, Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Lewis, Spokane and Stevens counties have said they do not plan to enforce the gun-safety measures.

In January, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said it will “adhere to the law as passed by a vote of the people, unless a court rules that it is unconstitutional.”

On Monday, Washougal Police Chief Ron Mitchell said his department also intends to enforce the law.

“We will take the same stance as the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and we will adhere to that,” Mitchell said. “Unless, at some point in the future, (I-1639) is deemed to be unconstitutional, then we will adhere to that (ruling).”

Gibson and his Patriot Prayer supporters say they believe the initiative is unconstitutional and are encouraging people throughout Washington to take a hard stand against I-1639.

In announcements posted on Limitless America and Patriot Prayer social media sites, the Feb. 24 Washougal rally, along with a Feb. 23 rally at Horseshoe Lake Park in Woodland in north Clark County, is touted as a first step toward enacting a city ordinance that would prohibit officials from enforcing I-1639 on a local level.

“Patriot Prayer will be coming into Limitless America in Washougal … to promote a city ordinance that will require city officials and law enforcement to not enforce any unconstitutional laws, particularly that of I-1639,” the rally promotions state. “There are politicians committing treason right now just for introducing legislation that violates the constitution. Seattle can do whatever they want with their own city, but the rest of the state does not have to be dictated on what we can or cannot do.”

On Monday, Gibson said he believed people who voted “yes” on the measure likely had good intentions, but that many Washington residents in rural, conservative areas were deeply opposed to the new laws, which they believe violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“Our main message is that Seattle voted to pass it … but we need people to stand up and protect the Constitution. The 51 percent cannot enslave the 49 percent,” Gibson said.

Told that more than 60 percent of Camas voters had approved the ballot measure in the November 2018 election, Gibson said he knew Washougal — where about 51 percent of voters rejected the measure — would “obviously be a lot more friendly” to Patriot Prayer’s message, but that he “still wants Camas people to hear what we’re going to say.”

The Feb. 24 rally at the Limitless America shop will feature Gibson, as well as shop owner Eric Hargrave and members of the “Washington Three Percent” group. Gibson said the speakers plan to “give inspiration and direction on how to go forward” regarding what they believe to be unconstitutional elements of I-1639.

He said media and “anybody who can be respectful and who are concerned about (I-1639), either for or against,” are welcome to attend the Feb. 24 rally at Limitless America.

Outdoor store shifts to selling guns, ammo

Limitless America, the Washougal business where the rally is being held is located about one block away from Hathaway Elementary School in Washougal. It hasn’t always been a firearms retailer. When Limitless owner Eric Hargrave, a 2003 Washougal High School graduate, opened his store in 2011, he named it Limitless Snow-Wake-Surf and billed it as a sporting goods shop selling mostly wakeboarding and snowboarding equipment.

In the spring of 2014, The Post-Record caught up with Hargrave to talk about the colorful graffiti art on the outside of his shop. The store was, at that time, still called Limitless Snow-Wake-Surf and still carried mostly wakeboard and snowboard gear. In the fall of 2015, Hargrave’s Limitless Facebook site moved away from wakeboarding photos and began promoting gun ammunition, survival gear and firearms accessories. The outside of the building changed, too. Instead of bright graffiti-style art, the store now had “Luke 22:36,” a Bible passage some Christians like to cite as proof Jesus advocated taking up swords for self-defense, but which many Biblical scholars say was Jesus trying to fulfill a particular Scripture, and “est. 1776,” the year the Declaration of Independence was written, printed on the outside, along with signs promoting the shop’s “AR-15 parts and accessories.”

On Jan. 11, the shop announced on its Facebook site that Limitless — by this point called Limitless America instead of Limitless Snow-Wake-Surf — was selling firearms.

At least one staff member at nearby Hathaway Elementary School reacted to that Jan. 11 Facebook announcement and approached Hathaway Principal Sarika Mosley.

“One staff member brought it up,” Mosley said. “They wanted us to know, ‘this business is here and these are the changes going on.'”

Mosley called the Washougal School District to voice her staff member’s concerns.

“The district reached out to the city and the city said (Limitless) is adhering to the zoning (regulations),” Mosley said.

When The Post-Record contacted Hargrave on Thursday, Feb. 7, to talk about the rally and the Hathaway concerns, the Limitless shop owner said he would not speak to anyone from a “liberal … failing for some time” newspaper.