A Lewis County gun range is one of a dozen plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit seeking clarification to sections of Initiative 594, a measure passed by Washington voters that requires expanded background checks for firearm purchases.
The Firearms Academy of Seattle, Inc., has operated a shooting instruction business with a range in Onalaska since 1995.
According to the lawsuit filed Dec. 30 in federal district court in Tacoma, the academy cannot determine whether temporary transfers at the range are exempted by I-594, which requires background checks for gun sales and transfers.
I-594 states that it does not apply to “the temporary transfer of a firearm between spouses or domestic partners; if the temporary transfer occurs, and the firearm is kept at all times, at an established shooting range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range is located.”
The academy presented the question of whether it is exempt by the law to the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office, which couldn’t provide an answer because Lewis County doesn’t require or provide licenses or permits for shooting ranges, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that the academy fears its instructors and patrons could face consequences because of transfers at the range.
Dave Workman, communications director for the Second Amendment Foundation, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said because Lewis County doesn’t certify gun ranges and part of the law discusses authorized ranges, the academy is concerned about how the law affects it.
“Until we get some guidance from the courts, we don’t know,” said Marty Hayes, director of the academy.
Hayes told The Chronicle that further questions about the lawsuit should be directed to the plaintiffs’ attorney.
Other plaintiffs in the case are the Northwest School of Safety; Puget Sound Security, Inc.; Pacific Northwest Association of Investigators, Inc.; Darryl Lee; Xee Del Real; Joe Waldron; Gene Hoffman; Andrew Gottlieb; Alan Gottlieb and the Gottlieb Family Revocable Living Trust.
The plaintiff’s state that I-594 violates the second and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution and sections three and 24 of the Washington State Constitution. The group also claims that the initiative is so vague that ordinary people cannot understand its scope.
The collective is suing Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General’s Office and chief of the Washington State Patrol John R. Batiste. The plaintiffs reserve the right to amend the complaint to include additional individuals responsible for implementing or enforcing I-594.
On Jan. 27, the state agencies filed an answer to the complaint requesting that judgement be entered for the plaintiff’s claims to be dismissed with prejudice and judgment be entered in favor of the defendants.
As the lawsuit is pending, lawmakers in Olympia are considering bills altering and clarifying I-594.
One bill — House Bill 1245 — looks to repeal the background checks all together set out in I-594.
House Bill 1533 looks to exempt historical societies and museums from background checks for firearm transfers for temporary exhibition of the weapon. House Bill 1506 seeks to not require background checks for private security guards and their private security company employers if the transfer is within the scope of employment or official duties.
“There’s no guarantee that any of that legislation is going to pass,” Workman said. “And I think that’s another good reason for having a federal lawsuit.”