Patriot Prayer members and a Washougal gun shop owner turned out to a Washougal City Council meeting Monday to ask city leaders there to declare Washougal a “Second Amendment sanctuary city” and instruct local police to not enforce a set of voter-approved state gun control laws.
More than 50 people attended the council meeting, including Joey Gibson, founder of the Vancouver-based Patriot Prayer group; Eric Hargrave, owner of Limitless America, a Washougal firearms retailer; and a film crew shooting footage for a “VICE News Tonight” program that will air on HBO in the spring.
Before the council meeting started, Hargrave distributed copies of a resolution that he and 10 other attendees spoke in favor of. The resolution asks Washougal councilors to declare the city to be a “Second Amendment sanctuary city,” to protect people’s right to keep and bear arms, while also making a statement that no sheriff, police chief, agent, employee or official of their respective jurisdictions enforce any act, order, rule, law or regulation “repugnant” to the right to keep and bear arms.
Hargrave spoke against 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. It raised the legal age to buy a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21; required semiautomatic rifle buyers to pass an annual background check, complete an approved training course and wait 10 days before obtaining their weapons; and developed a “dangerous access prevention” law that holds gun owners responsible for safely storing their weapons and keeping them away from people who are not eligible to possess a firearm.
Hargrave told city council members that more than 70 men, women and children attended a “Second Amendment Rally,” Sunday, Feb. 24, at his business, to discuss their constitutional rights and agree the city of Washougal needs to take action regarding I-1639.
“Initiative 1639 is unconstitutional,” Hargrave said. “It infringes on the right to bear arms. It makes firearms unavailable for immediate self defense and home protection.”
“Our rights are not up for negotiation,” he added. “When laws are brought up that are unconstitutional, we as citizens have a right not to follow them.”
Gibson told councilmembers he was concerned that veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would have their guns taken away without due process.
“You can’t predict future crimes,” Gibson said later, while taking a break from shaking hands with supporters in the City Hall lobby. “It’s a slippery slope. They can’t take away guns, because they think (the veteran) is going to commit a crime.”
Gibson said he hopes to visit all of the city councils in Clark County and put pressure on Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins to not enforce I-1639. Gibson was not sure when he would be at a Camas City Council meeting. Camas councilors are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m., Monday, March 4.
Washougal Councilmember Brent Boger requested that City Attorney Ken Woodrich develop options, related to the Second Amendment sanctuary city issue, for the council to consider. Woodrich is working on a legal opinion regarding the issues that were raised during public comments at the city council meeting.
Later in the meeting, Mike Briggs, of Washougal, said he is gun owner and hunter who keeps his firearms safely locked up when they are not in use.
“It’s always been my understanding that a law, once passed and ratified and goes through all the levels of the government, that it is the law of the land or the law of the state anyway, until it’s challenged in court,” he said. “It’s law, and I would expect anybody — you and everybody else here — to obey that law, as best you can.”
Briggs said he noticed some of the individuals in attendance had firearms, and he did not think that people, other than police officers, were allowed to carry guns during city council meetings.
Woodrich said state law requires the city to allow lawfully carried firearms in council chambers, unless the council chambers is being used as a municipal court. He said later that lawfully carried firearms are firearms carried consistent with open carry laws, or concealed with a concealed carry permit.
City Councilman Paul Greenlee said, by phone, Tuesday, Feb. 26, he owns a number of firearms, and he has no opinion about I-1639 until he hears from the city attorney.
“It’s not up to me to decide whether 1639 is constitutional or not,” Greenlee said. “That’s somebody else — the Supreme Court of the State of Washington or the Supreme Court of the United States — any federal or state courts.”
Councilman Ernie Suggs said the people who spoke against I-1639 had a viable concern that city council should look at regarding what the Constitution says and find out what other cities and counties in Washington State are doing and why they are doing it.
“There seems to be a momentum in regards to addressing the initiative for what it is trying to do versus what needs to be done regarding the Constitution,” Suggs said. “Part of the problem is trying to understand it. We have more gun laws than you can ever imagine.”
Suggs became a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) at the age of 14 when he needed to take an NRA rifle safety class in order to go hunting with other Boy Scouts.
He said the request from Hargrave, Gibson and others to declare Washougal a “Second Amendment sanctuary city” was a matter of fact, regarding what is needed and maybe what the council should do.
“It’s going to the courts,” Suggs said, regarding I-1639. “It may be deemed unconstitutional or not.”
Washougal City Councilmember Ray Kutch said he is not going to vote for anything that weakens the Second Amendment.
He said the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms was not necessary to protect people from wild animals or criminals.
“It was more to protect us from government taking away our freedoms,” Kutch said. “If we don’t have that ability, that weakens us and we just become subservient to government. Government needs to be subservient to people.”
He served as a Naval flight officer in Vietnam.
“Having been in the military, I fought for that freedom, and I think we need to protect it,” Kutch said. “I’m going to continue to support that belief. Keep the Second Amendment strong.”
He said there will be questions regarding I-1639 until it gets to the courts.
“We tend to water down the Constitution,” Kutch added. “I don’t want that to happen. I’m sure there will be council people who don’t agree with me.”