Rick Felici is not among the sheriffs in the state who are refusing to enforce a controversial new law on gun control.
It’s not that the new Island County sheriff likes Initiative 1639, the so-called gun safety measure passed by 59 percent of voters in the Nov. 6 election. In fact, he’s a self-proclaimed “Second Amendment guy” who feels the measure is wrongheaded, impractical and superfluous.
But he said his job is to enforce laws, not write them or judge them.
“I’m not going to make a political statement using this office as a pulpit,” he said.
The initiative includes a wide-range of rules regarding firearms, including enhanced background checks, firearm education and gun storage, all of which are set to go into effect in July. A stricter age limit on assault-weapon purchases went into effect in January.
Sheriffs from Adams, Benton, Clark, Cowlitz, Franklin, Lewis, Lincoln, Grant, Grays Harbor, Kittitas, Klickitat, Mason, Okanogan, Spokane, Stevens, Wahkiakum and Yakima counties have said they will hold off on enforcing the laws because they feel they may be unconstitutional.
Felici said he’s received calls this week from residents who want him to join these sheriffs by announcing that he won’t enforce the new law.
Among the callers was South Whidbey High School student Aryeh Rohde, a constitutional activist who is the youngest member of the state’s Libertarian Party and the Three Percenters of Washington group.
He said he believes Felici, as an elected sheriff, has a duty to publicly refute the measure because it is clearly unconstitutional.
Rohde organized a meeting of the gun-rights group Patriot Prayer and the Three Percenters in Greenbank last Saturday.
All three speakers encouraged people to contact the sheriff and ask him to take a stand against the initiative.
Felici said he’s sympathetic to the argument because he, on a personal level, is against I-1639. Besides constitutional issues, he said, there are logical problems with the laws, such as the unclear and wide-open definition of “assault rifle” and vague storage requirements for firearms.
The sheriff said he can conceive of a situation in which someone should face legal consequences for acting extremely irresponsible with a firearm, but he said current laws are adequate to deal with such problems.
Felici said judges may someday rule that the measure, or parts of it, are not constitutional, but he’s not able to make that decision by himself.
It’s the way the law system works, he pointed out. Laws are considered to be constitutional until the judicial system says they are not.
“It’s the law,” he said. “I don’t get to choose what we enforce and what we do not.”