April 28th, 2023

Washington State Bans Modern Sporting Rifles — Lawsuits Filed

washington state jay inslee assault ban semi-auto AR15 modern sporting rifles legislation second amendment violation

The Governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee, recently signed radical new legislation, House Bill 1240, that outlaws AR-platform rifles and other semi-auto, mag-fed “modern sporting rifles” (MSRs). This new WA state law, which goes into effect immediately as an “emergency” measure, will be fought in Federal Court. Two lawsuits have been filed, both seeking to strike down HB 1240 as unconstitutional.

The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Washington, challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted HB 1240, which bans the manufacture, sale, import, and distribution of many semi-automatic firearms. The lawsuit, named Hartford v. Ferguson, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

In addition, NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) filed a lawsuit, Banta et al v. Ferguson, against Washington’s Attorney General Robert Ferguson and John Batiste, Chief of Washington State Patrol, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from state authorities enforcing HB 1240, which bans modern sporting rifles. The lead plaintiff is Amanda Banta, a 2012 Team USA Olympian and 10-year member of the U.S. Rifle Team and resident of Spokane, Washington.

GunsAmerica Digest reports: “HB 1240 is part of a broader gun reform package signed into law that includes a 10-day waiting period, mandatory firearms training for prospective gun buyers, and a new legal pathway for the Attorney General and family members of shooting victims to sue gun makers who market their products to prohibited persons. These additional provisions take effect this summer. HB 1240 has exemptions for law enforcement and members of the military. Existing owners of black rifles are also grandfathered in — at least for now.”

NSSF challenges Washington’s MSR ban, arguing that it violates the Second and Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Heller that the Second Amendment protects the rights to keep and bear arms “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.” There are over 24.4 million MSRs in circulation today, more than there are Ford F-150s on America’s roads.

HB 1240 is very harsh. According to GunsAmerica Digest: “HB 1240 only allows 90 days for firearm dealers and manufacturers to sell or transfer their existing stock out of the state. Furthermore, the bill stipulates that violations will be considered a misdemeanor offense, which could result in a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a fine of $5,000.”

“NSSF will not stand idly by as politicians cleave away fundamental Constitutional rights from Americans,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior V.P. and General Counsel. “The right to keep and bear arms that are commonly owned belongs to law-abiding citizens. Politicians in Washington exceed their authority when they usurp those rights to mollify radical special-interest groups. These politicians violate their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution and the rights of the citizens they represent.”

SAF claims the new law — which took effect immediately — infringes on Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights and is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions from the court.

SAF founder and Executive V.P. Alan M. Gottlieb criticized the state for putting politics above constitutional rights: “[Washington] has criminalized a common and important means of self-defense, the modern semiautomatic rifle. The state has put politics ahead of constitutional rights, and is penalizing law-abiding citizens while this legislation does nothing to arrest and prosecute criminals[.]”

SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut called out the authors and supporters of the legislation: “As we note in our complaint, the firearms that Washington bans as ‘assault weapons’ are, in all respects, ordinary semiautomatic rifles. To the extent they are different from other semiautomatic rifles, their distinguishing features make them safer and easier to use.”

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