City leaders, for the first time, expressed their opinions publicly about the efforts of Patriot Prayer to make Battle Ground a 2nd Amendment sanctuary city
BATTLE GROUND — The quest to turn Battle Ground into a 2nd Amendment sanctuary city appears doomed.
Fresh off the heels of their rally Sunday at Kiwanis Park, members of Patriot Prayer gathered again inside Battle Ground City Council chambers to push for an ordinance declaring that city police would not enforce the recently passed I-1639.
The sweeping gun control legislation approved by voters last November raises the age limit to buy any semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21. The law also will implement enhanced background checks for purchases of semi-automatic weapons, require proof of certified firearms training, and a 10-day “cooling off” period before a buyer can take possession of the gun. It will eventually also require occasional re-checks of licensed semi-automatic weapon owners, to make sure they’re still legally qualified to have the gun.
But the most controversial part of the law has been a new gun storage requirement. Starting in July, gun owners could face up to a felony charge of “community endangerment” if their weapon ends up in the hands of someone not authorized to possess it. While State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has said the law “does not require that a firearm is stored in a particular place or in a particular way,” a FAQ on the AG’s website defines secure storage as a “locked box, gun safe, or other secure locked storage space.”
Gun rights advocates say that part of the law is a giant loophole that could be used for law enforcement to enter a home and seize a weapon without a warrant. Advocates for the law say that is a misunderstanding of the way it is written, and that no one is going to be taking guns away from owners.
One of the strongest local voices against I-1639 has been Joey Gibson, founder of Patriot Prayer and former Senate candidate. Gibson has held numerous rallies before and after the passage of I-1639, and has since turned his attention to pushing area cities to pass ordinances stating they will not enforce the new law.
Several county sheriffs have already publicly stated they won’t enforce the law, calling it unconstitutional. Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins has said he will uphold the law as passed by voters. In Clark County, I-1639 received 54 percent approval.
But in Battle Ground, 58.8 percent voted against the initiative, and that is, in part, why Gibson and Patriot Prayer has made the city of 21,000-plus a special focus in their efforts.
“I love Battle Ground, it’s a great area and the people want it,” Gibson said last week after defending his group’s right to use Kiwanis Park for a rally, noting that most of the people around him are from within the city.
But at Monday’s meeting, after nearly another hour of testimony from Patriot Prayer members, Battle Ground Mayor Mike Dalesandro said he’s not sure there’s as much support for Gibson’s movement within the city as Gibson and his supporters believe.
“I represent 21,000 people. I have had others reach out to me as well,” said the mayor. “I will be honest about this as well, I have had more contact from people who don’t support moving forward with anything at all.”
Dalesandro said he does have some sympathy with people opposing the new law. “As a citizen, there are portions of the law that are flawed, just to be honest.”
The group found some support in other members of the council, especially Brian Munson, who said either an ordinance or a resolution could be an opportunity for Battle Ground to at least let its voice be heard in Olympia.
“My opinion is we’ve got to take a stand,” said Munson, “and what does that stand look like? What can we legally do? … How do we take our attorney that we hired two years ago and stop saying ‘we can’t, we can’t, we can’t’ and ask her ‘what can we do?'”
Munson’s opinion was backed up by fellow council members Steven Phelps and Deputy Mayor Shane Bowman.
“I know you want it done fast,” said Bowman, “and I know two of us are here because we wanted stuff done fast, and then we found out — if you’ve been in the military, I haven’t, but I know an aircraft carrier is really big, and I know that sucker takes some time to stop, takes some time to turn around, and it takes some time to get going. And that’s what we’re dealing with here.”
Councilor Philip Johnson, a 26-year military veteran, was the only one to say he would definitely not back an ordinance, or likely even a resolution, in opposition of I-1639.
“You may think the people who voted for this are dead wrong. They very well may be. But it’s not in my DNA to participate in voter nullification,” said Johnson. “If you wish to have 1639 overturned and not wait for the court system, then run 1640. Run 1776. Run 1775. Run 1945. Whatever date you want to put on that number so that it gives it a little bit of oomph.”
Johnson’s comments prompted an outburst from several people in the room, and a warning from Mayor Dalesandro that the next person to speak in the crowd would be asked to leave. That person was Joey Gibson himself, who yelled that Johnson was “not protecting the constitution. It’s a shame!”
As Gibson stood to leave, another member of the group shouted at Johnson, “you’ll be voted out shortly pal, this is your last term. Guaranteed.”
To which Johnson replied, “See you at the polls, buddy.”
After things settled back down, Johnson added that voters across the state approved I-1639, even outside of the Seattle area.
“It is not Mr. (Governor Jay) Inslee’s law. It is not Mr. Ferguson’s law. It is your neighbor’s law who voted it in,” said Johnson. “Yes it came out of King County, it also came out of Clark County, and Skamania County, and Cowlitz County.”
Councilor Cherish DeRochers thanked the group for their comments, and for remaining civil, but did not reveal her position on the possibility of a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary City ordinance. Councilor Adrian Cortes was absent from Monday’s meeting.
Dalesandro said it’s his opinion that Patriot Prayer, and other groups opposed to I-1639, should be spending their efforts appealing to legislators in Olympia, or going through the courts. Several gun rights groups have promised a lawsuit challenging the new law in court.
“We can put something on a piece of paper and it can mean something,” said Dalesandro. “Change is going to come in a different way for this. It’s going to come through the courts or the state legislature, and that’s just the bottom line.”
Dalesandro said they will ask the city attorney for her input on what options the city might have for some sort of ordinance or resolution, and expect to talk more about those in their first meeting in May.