Yacolt approves resolution opposing I-1639

The vote makes them the first town in Washington state to pass a resolution opposed to the new gun control measures

YACOLT — Despite misgivings, Yacolt’s Town Council this week became the first municipal government to pass a resolution opposing Initiative 1639, the gun control measure passed in Washington state last November, even though approximately 77 percent of Yacolt voters voted against the initiative.

Outside the former Yacolt City Hall. Photo courtesy Town of Yacolt.
Outside the former Yacolt City Hall. Photo courtesy Town of Yacolt.

Shauna Walters, who filed to run for Battle Ground City Council after their decision not to pass a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary City resolution, spoke at Monday’s meeting and said a petition effort in Yacolt drew heavy support for some form of action from the town of less than 2,000 people.

“It was evident that the residents of Yacolt overwhelmingly want this sanctuary resolution to be passed,” said Walters.

Yacolt Mayor Vince Myers said he preferred a proclamation by the council, as opposed to a resolution.

“I think a proclamation from the town saying this law stinks is what we can do right now,” said Myers, who doesn’t get a vote on the council. “A resolution is, I don’t think, the appropriate vehicle at this point.”

Credit: Shauna Walters

Myers said his concern was that a resolution, which guides town policy, was that it wouldn’t allow the council to be as forceful in their statement against I-1639 as they would like to be.

“I’ve looked through the RCWs trying to find out what the best means to address this assault on our civil rights is,” said Myers. “And the best means, which we may or may not get support for, is a proclamation, and getting citizen groups like yours together to form an initiative to get back on the ballot to repeal this piece-of-junk-law.”

Myers said he also has concerns that a resolution could bring consequences for the town. While 13 of Washington State’s 39 county sheriffs have said they will not enforce the new gun laws, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins has publicly said he believes it is his duty to uphold the laws as passed by the voters of Washington state, no matter his personal views. Since the sheriff provides police coverage through a contract with Yacolt, Myers said it’s his concern that a resolution could bring higher costs for police coverage, or slower response times. He also worried about bringing legal action from the state’s attorney general.

“We may think it’s unconstitutional. I believe it’s unconstitutional,” said Myers. “But until the courts decide, it is about to become a law on July first. Not my rules, I just have to play within that arena.”

But the crowd was quick to say that they’re ready for any consequences the resolution might bring.

“I’m cool with my tax dollars and my property taxes going up a little bit to pass this resolution,” said Michelle Dawson. “Absolutely.”

Others said they worried that simply approving a proclamation, similar to what Battle Ground did, would be perceived as “soft.”

“Not softness,” countered Myers, who called 1639 a “piece of garbage” built on a bed of quicksand. “I want it to be broader. I want it to encompass every avenue possible. The resolution that was proposed for us focuses specifically on certain items.”

But Councilor Herb Nobel said a resolution, with its legal ramifications, presented a stronger stance by the town, even if the language couldn’t be as strident as a proclamation.

“Maybe with us getting the ball rolling, maybe other towns, maybe other municipalities will say ‘you know, let’s join with them,’” he said. “Doing nothing is just going to keep the snowball melting.”

That statement was met by a round of applause from the crowd.

Councilor Amy Boget was less adamant in her support of a resolution, agreeing that a proclamation would likely carry just as much weight legally.

“It’s us stating ‘the entire town’s opinion is this’ and we stand behind the people of Yacolt,” said Boget. “That not only gives us the ability to have that voice as one big one, right? Which is a squeakier wheel, but it also protects all of those fears that we have, but it does the exact thing of allowing the statement to be made.”

But the vocal audience again pushed back, saying Yacolt needed to be the first town to put some legal force behind its opposition to 1639.

“Why not take a stand and make Yacolt the first city to pass the resolution?” asked Walters.

“Are you wanting us to say point blank ‘Sheriff, do not come into this town and enforce I-1639?’” countered Boget. “If that is what you’re wanting, then there’s a whole other bag of snakes that we’re going to have to unpack.”

“I’m ready, let’s do it,” responded someone in the audience.

Boget then fired back at those who said she was “scared” to pass the resolution.

“I have children, we live in this town, I’m not planning on moving next year, so any decision that I make not only affects me, it affects my neighbors, it affects my friends, it affects my children,” she said.

Fellow Council Member Malita Mosely also expressed some concerns about the resolution, despite saying she would rather not have to rely on a response from the sheriff if someone were breaking into her home, or that of a neighbor.

“I think there’s big consequences to that (passing a resolution), and I’m not sure what they would be,” she said. “And I’m not sure what the consequences would be on us as a council saying ‘no, we don’t like that law, go away.'”

Ultimately the council was swayed when they were told the town’s attorney would have to look over the final resolution before it was approved, giving them a chance to pick their words carefully before entering it into the record. The resolution was approved 4-0, but not without some unhappy faces on the council.

Yacolt becomes the first municipality to pass a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary City resolution. Washougal has been considering doing so, but no final decision has been made there. Battle Ground issued a statement by the council expressing their displeasure with the gun control law, but advocating for a legal resolution to the matter. Walters said her group is planning to focus next on La Center or Ridgefield for similar resolutions against 1639 there.

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