Law enforcement leaders and political hopefuls braved a steady pouring of rain on Saturday to drum up support for their opposition to new laws altering long-standing gun regulations — spurred by last year’s successful Initiative I-1639 — that they claim violate people’s rights to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Colton’s Pharmacy parking lot along Second Street in Morton saw scattered groups of protestors defending their rights to purchase and maintain various forms of firearms, including AR-15 and AK-47 semi-automatic and assault rifles.
The outdoor event hosted a bevy of prominent speakers who alternately stepped into an open cargo trailer to communicate several reasons why the controversial statute— that was officially adopted into state law last November — would actually “increase violence” rather than reducing it, contrary to how it’s been touted by citizens and local elected officials who endorse the measure.
Those who voted in favor of I-1639, as stated on last year’s state ballot, approved the implementation of restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms, including raising the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic assault rifle to 21. The proposed legislation also comprised additional background checks, increasing waiting periods and enacting storage requirements.
Chairman of the Cowlitz County Republican Party Kelburn Koontz denounced the initiative on grounds that the “red tape” generated by the enactment would work to the detriment of most common firearm owners who, he said, possess their weapons to safeguard their homes and loved ones against acts of violence.
“(Initiative) 1639 also creates mandatory requirements backed by government force, which will increase violence, not decrease it,” Koontz said. “I-1639 will give criminals the advantage over responsible citizens that wish to be ready to defend themselves in their home. I-1639 also favors abusers over their victims by increasing waiting times for purchase.”
The Kelso-based party leader later added: “Imagine a situation where someone is storing a gun in their own house in a manner they deem acceptable and someone breaks in and steals the weapon. If that weapon is used in a crime, the registered owner can be charged with a felony. The onus is not on the thief, but on the victim of the theft,” stated Koontz.
The gathering’s emcee, Kevin Hunter, a Longview-based author and radio host, offered his own insight on the I-1639 debate by addressing school shootings, which have given rise to several gun activists, such as 19-year-old David Hogg, who survived the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School attack in Parkland, Florida.
Hunter contended that school shootings are neither a state or national issue, and suggested that places of learning follow the lead of other venues in protecting large crowds of people.
“When was the last shooting at an NFL game, an NBA game or at a soccer game? You know, they have a very minimal security level over there, which is checking people’s bags … because the bad guy knows that, he doesn’t show up,” observed Hunter, who theorized that violent tendencies exhibited by young shooters can be treated by weaning them off unhealthy diets consisting of highly-preserved foods and refined sugars.
“I think we are over-drugging our kids and when you think about mass shootings that have happened over the past 20 years here in the United States of America, all but one were on drugs,” he said.
Also in attendance was the man who spearheaded the movement against I-1639, Republic Police Chief Loren Culp, who at the time of the statute being passed into law declared that he wouldn’t enforce provisions of the statewide gun control initiative.
Culp’s position on the legislation gained traction among an overwhelming majority of Republic’s 1,000 residents, according to Culp, and some of his fellow law enforcement agents within the state, including Sheriff Bob Songer of Klickitat County and Mossyrock Police Chief Roger Morningstar, who were also at Saturday’s demonstration.
Soon after, the self-described “small town police chief” garnered national attention when he suggested that the community of Republic become a “Second Amendment sanctuary city.”
In addition, Culp has recently announced his plans to run against Gov. Jay Inslee’s seat in the Nov. 3, 2020 election.
“I’ve lived here all my life except for four years in the United States military and I just know that Washingtonians wouldn’t pass something like that. But our attorney general (Bob Ferguson) and our current governor deceived a lot of people,” explained Culp. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who were fooled by that. It was done purposely. You cannot take a constitutional right away from people with an initiative— it doesn’t work that way.”
He added: “I was asked by citizens in Republic when I was at work if I was going to start arresting 18-21 year olds who I saw with a semi-automatic rifle and my answer was no, I wasn’t going to do that. It would violate their constitutional rights.”
In the effort of further spreading his anti-gun control views, Culp has also authored a book titled, “American Cop,” which went into print last January and reportedly became an Amazon best seller.
In his publication, Culp shares his opinions on why some individuals are reluctant to “take a stand” against gun control regulations.
Those thoughts were mentioned during the rally, as he linked anti-gun activism to U.S. public education.
“Most of us are a product of the public school system. They don’t teach the things my parents taught me when I was young about our heritage, our constitution, the Bill of Rights and what our forefathers fought for to give us the freedoms we have now,” said Culp, a one-time U.S. Army sergeant.
As a gubernatorial candidate, Culp also promised that he would reduce taxes and reduce regulations.
“I’m just a common man with a common purpose, willing to work for common people and that purpose is for freedom and liberty. We don’t need a big bloated government in Olympia running roughshod over us with higher and higher taxes and more and more regulations and rules,” he said.
Among Culp’s legion of rain-soaked supporters at the Morton assemblage was Jayme Gawlik, who told The Chronicle how most gun owners not only believe in the constitution, but are also proponents of gun safety and the right to bear arms in the interest of “protecting yourself, your life, your property and that of others.” And she added: “to protect protect yourself from tyrannical government.”
“The current governor does not support our Second Amendment rights. He’s offered impingements with I-1639, which impinges the rights of younger Americans to keep and bear and bear arms, which are guaranteed in the constitution.”