Gun dealer shoots hole in I-1639

Call it a loophole if you want. 

But I call what Talos Tactical owner Matt Cieslar is doing in West Richland a moral win for rural residents and 2nd Amendment supporters ... albeit temporary.

The owner of the gun shop at 4096 W. Van Giesen St. vowed last week to continue selling hunting rifles to adults older than 18 and younger than 21 despite the enactment of portions of Initiative 1639 effective Jan. 1.

The gun-control measure restricts all sales of “assault” rifles to state residents older than 21 as of Jan. 1 and enacts a myriad of other gun-control regulations.

According to Matt, here's the loophole:

While the gun-control measure defines “assault rifles” to include all semi-automatic hunting rifles, the definition doesn't become law until July 1. That leaves a six-month window for law-abiding adults between the ages of 18-21 to continue purchasing semi-automatic rifles legally.

I spoke with Matt for a while last Friday. And as with all businessmen, he didn't make the decision to shoot holes in the initiative lightly; he did his homework.

“We didn't throw caution to the wind,” he told me, adding his decision to continue selling is the “right thing” to do for his business, his customers and rural residents everywhere. “I've no intention of breaking the law. I'll continue to sell everything I legally can to every one I legally can until the day I legally can't.”

That day comes July 1.

In the meantime, he hopes the law will be rewritten or thrown out in court challenges. And the law is being challenged.

Last month, Republic Police Chief Loren Culp took heat for saying he wouldn't enforce Initiative 1639. And in Centralia (yes, west of the Cascade Crest), Lewis County Sheriff Robert Snaza came under fire for saying he won't actively pursue violations under the new law. Call it law enforcement nullification of an unconstitutional law. 

In addition, the city of Republic has also been roundly criticized by Western Washington gun-control advocates for discussing a measure that would declare the city a “sanctuary” from the overreaching gun law, which is also being challenged in U.S. District Court in Seattle by the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation.

The legal challenge and nullification efforts are welcomed by Matt, myself and other rural lifestyle advocates.

Matt, who also owns land near the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area's Fort Spokane just outside of Hunters, said he didn't mean to become a lightning rod in the gun-control debate. Instead, he decided to continue selling because it is the right thing to do.

Looking around the state, the anti I-1639 is growing.

A Lynnwood firearms dealer has also said she will continue selling semi-automatic rifles to adults ages 18-21 until July 1. Others too, after having read about Matt's effort, have called him and law enforcement agencies, looking for clarification.

“It's snowballing,” he said. “You cannot ban something that doesn't exist (under state law).”

In Colville, Clark's All-Sports owner Ray Clark said he's studying the issue before making a decision on how to proceed. 

Clark points out that Initiative 1639 takes aim at a large percentage of Stevens County residents, businesses and others in Eastern Washington.

He says most rural residents ages 18-21 will still have to “bite the bullet” and jump through the hoops of I-1639 if they attempt to purchase a semi-automatic hunting rifle in Washington. That's because gun store owners are under constant scrutiny by state and federal agencies. 

So, don't be surprised if many firearms dealers are hesitant to risk their business. 

A check of the voting record supports Clark's assessment of the impact on residents in Eastern Washington. 

Voters in 18 of the 20 counties east of the Cascades rejected the measure by wide margins.

Lincoln County led the way with 75.09 percent of voters opposing the initiative ­ - that's three out of every four voters. In Stevens County, 73.14 percent of voters opposed it. In Ferry County, 72.79 percent opposed it, while Garfield County voters rejected I-1639 72.95 percent of the time.

Around Eastern Washington, more than 60 percent of voters in Adams, Benton, Columbia, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan and Pend Oreille counties also rejected the measure.

Only residents in the more-liberal bastions of Spokane and Whitman counties supported the measure. 

In Spokane County, the measure squeaked by with 50.89 percent of voters supporting the stringent gun-control rules. In Whitman County ­­­­— home to Washington State University, and many liberal professors and students who moved into our region of the world — the percentage of support was 54.33 percent, the highest east of the Cascades.

In our state, at the age of majority (18), you are considered an adult. As such, you should be entitled to all the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution. To me, that includes the ability to purchase, own and carry a firearm.

Between now and July 1, let's hope more residents, officials and businesses stand up and oppose the onerous regulations encapsulated in the text of Initiative 1639. Let's hope more law enforcement agencies and municipalities nullify the unconstitutional measure. Let's hope Matt's message continues to spread.

Our culture, economy and way of life here east of the Cascades depend on it.

Roger Harnack is the publisher and editor of the Statesman-Examiner and Deer Park Tribune. Email him at publisher@statesmanexaminer.com

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