Washington AG responds to sanctuary sheriffs

The Washington State Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, sent an open letter to Washington’s sheriffs and police chiefs refusing to enforce Initiative 1639.

The response is not as bad as I was afraid it might be. He didn’t say he was going try to prosecute them or anything. The worst he said was:

I am deeply concerned that the failure of local law enforcement to perform Initiative 1639’s background check requirement will jeopardize public safety in our state by allowing the sale of semiautomatic assault rifles to dangerous individuals not lawfully allowed to own a gun.  State law provides immunity to local law enforcement officers who run these checks “in good faith.” However, in the event a police chief or sheriff refuses to perform the background check required by Initiative 1639, they could be held liable if there is a sale or transfer of a firearm to a dangerous individual prohibited from possessing a firearm and that individual uses that firearm to do harm. In short, the taxpayers of your city or county assume the financial risk of your decision to impose your personal views over the law.

I find it very telling that he doesn’t address the possibility of liability if someone is denied their right to keep and bear arms is harmed because they were unable to defend themselves.

Near the end of the letter he attempted to peg the irony meter:

Under Article 1, Section 1 of the Washington State Constitution, “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.” As public officers, our duty is to abide by the will of the people we serve, and implement and enforce the laws they adopt.

He acknowledges the purpose of the constitution is to protect the rights of the people then he claims it is the duty of public officers to infringe upon the right of the people.to keep and bear arms.

Analogies to marijuana and immigration law enforcement are misplaced. This is not a situation where the
federal government is trying to force the state to enforce federal laws.

So… is he saying that it would be acceptable if they were to refuse to enforce Federal gun laws?

He might have been inspired to write the letter because of this map:


I’m keeping a copy of Ferguson’s letter in multiple places for use as evidence at his trial.


11 thoughts on “Washington AG responds to sanctuary sheriffs

  1. Looking at the clear threat of individual responsibility for failure to enforce if something bad happens, the parallel to not helping ICE on immigration enforcement when an illegal kills someone should be obvious. His attempt as deflection saying “this is different,” is bogus (not sure what the proper legal term is). Anyone who suffers a loss to an illegal should have standing, and be able to cite this letter as evidence at the trial. Make it personal. Make it hurt. Make it public. Make it expensive…. personally. There has to be someone in this state, now, who could sue.

  2. Mailing a threatening letter to a couple dozen type-A LEO guys who just so happen to be very powerful elected officials… Lemme know how that works out.

  3. Yeah, yeah, yeah, liability. Whatever, Bob. That liability is going to smack straight into “the activities this initiative required us to perform would also require us to commit violations of protected civil rights in the process”, and that would be that.

    The “will of the people” is sharply curtained by constitutional restraints. Otherwise, there’s no point to a constitution.

    I’m motivated to run an initiative to start the state formation process (under US Constitutions Article 4 Section 3) to expel the Seattle-to-Olympia region from Washington, and Bob can be the AG of that part. Just need to phrase the initiative in such a way that it sounds like the progressive, smart, beautiful, forward thinking people of the prospective state of Roosevelt wish to be quit of the cousin-humping rednecks of the rest of the state named after the slave-owner white man Washington. They can keep the current senators, too.

  4. Does the state incur equal risk of liability if (when – as is often the case) someone passes the background check, and then goes bananas and shoots up a bar? Seems to me the sword cuts both ways.

    Ferguson, Inslee, Hanauer, Gates, et. al. want to shove these laws down our throats? Let THEM take social responsibility for the laws consequences when they fail.

    • I’m sure the state doesn’t.

      I think Bob is just trying to throw out vaguely threatening phrases at the recipients in hopes that it will stick somewhere. You’ll note he didn’t say his office would prosecute, probably because he’d figured out that kind of suit would go nowhere and would likely set a precedent he wouldn’t like.

      That letter wasn’t a legal opinion with any force. It was an Op-Ed.

    • The general answer is “no”.
      This applies everywhere. For example, we’ve been told ad nauseam that government regulations are for our safety. This justifies things like the FDA delaying or blocking the availability of drugs that can cure sick people or keep them alive. But it turns out that if you jump through those hoops and get the FDA sticker on your drugs, you’re still going to get sued and will still be found liable if the drug injures someone. Or even if some scam artist pretending to be a lawyer convinces a gullible jury to say so. In that situation, the fact that the government approved your products is no help whatsoever.
      If bureaucrats were honest people, they would assume liability when they force you to get their approval.

  5. “I am deeply concerned that the failure of local law enforcement…”

    “Deeply concerned”. Hah. “Failure” of local law enforcement. This is the phraseology we now use to describe someone who has the courage to stand on American principles? “Failure”?

    I am deeply concerned that America has lost its way, and is going down the drain, backsliding into authoritarianism wherein an attorney general feels comfortable trying to intimidate sheriffs into violating their Oath of office. Is that a “failure” on my part then, that I believe the AG is out of line and anti-American?

  6. The funny (?) thing is that many cities in the state have declared themselves sanctuary cities that will not follow Federal law. But the Attorney General will enforce this initiative that violates the Second Amendmant. Either enforce all laws or repeal them. City counsels should be held liable for crimes committed by those given sanctuary.

    • It’s just as well that not all laws are enforced. Consider that, on average, the Federal Register runs to about 200 pages per DAY. Aren’t you glad that all that new law, which no person can possibly know, is not actively enforced?

      • Which only means they will be enforced arbitrarily, i.e., if you are politically connected you’re golden, but if you are not then you are totally screwed if you cross anyone who is. That is actually worse than active enforcement of all them them, all the time, for a whole host of reasons I should not have to spell out for this crowd.

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