Crider Receives Criticism for Upholding I-1639

Oscar Parrish, Staff Reporter

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There has been multitude of public reactions to Walla Walla County Sheriff Crider, College Place Police Chief Troy Tomoras and Walla Walla Police Chief Scott Bieber’s joint statement addressing the recently passed gun regulation initiative I-1639. The initiative passed in the general elections last November, and its reception in the State has been mixed. The measure is a sweeping package of regulations that aims to reduce the rate of gun violence in Washington state.

Specifically, I-1639 increases the age and scrutiny of background checks required to purchase semi-automatic rifles (SAR), requires buyers to show proof they have taken a firearms-safety course and mandates buyers wait 10 business days before receiving the SAR. Additionally, the measure makes it legal to prosecute an individual under community-endangerment fines if the gun is not stored properly and the firearm is misused. So if someone who is legally prohibited from possessing a gun acquires it and displays the gun publicly, uses it in a crime or discharges it, the owner is liable.

The police chiefs of Walla Walla and College Place, and Walla Walla County Sheriff Mark Crider issued a joint statement communicating that while they will publicly and legally oppose the initiative, it is not their duty to ‘pick and choose’ which laws they enforce and asked residents to be patient as the law works its way through the state judicial system.

A number of Walla Walla residents have strongly opposed the statement. A few residents have circulated an online petition to “Recall Walla Walla County Sheriff Mark Crider.” The petition has garnered significant attention on the Facebook page “The Daily Dose of Walla Walla.” Community member Brandon Kennedy gave his opinion of the public letter.

“I think his letter spoke clearly and plainly to the issue. Law enforcement don’t sign up to apply the law based on the opinions of their community, outside of whatever the people vote for. They sign up to serve the letter of the law, and this law was passed by the voters. There is no pick-and-choose here,” Kennedy said.

Statewide, the measure was met with opposition as a number of county sheriffs such as Grant, Spokane, Okanogan, Chelan and Stevens County Sheriff’s, amongst multiple others, issued statements saying they will not enforce the law as it is written, citing reasons spanning from ambiguity to unconstitutionality.

Community member Virginia Romie spoke about her disapproval of these sheriffs’ statements.

“They [the county sheriffs] swore to uphold all the laws, not just the ones they like. Until or if such time as 1639 is declared unconstitutional, they are violating their oaths of office by refusing to enforce 1639. They should be the ones under scrutiny here, not the police chiefs & Sheriff Crider, who are announcing they will do their jobs,” Romie said.

When asked about his opinion of the public opposition and the petition, Sheriff Crider was largely unperturbed, responding with the following comment:

“That is the great thing about living in America, we all have the right to express our opinions,” Sheriff Crider said.

Among community members of Walla Walla and Sheriff Crider, there was a general consensus that gun regulation reform was needed in Washington state, but there was mixed opinions as to whether the initiative adequately addressed the problems that were most pertinent, or if the wording of the measure was too vague and ambiguous, and that the implementation of the law would be difficult as a result.

Kennedy was largely supportive of the law, but not in its entirety.

“I believe most of this initiative is going to have a positive impact on gun safety. I think a lot of people misinterpret this as another ‘they are coming for our guns’ type of law, but that is clearly not the case. The only part of this that doesn’t quite make sense is the firearm storage portion. There isn’t a great way for law enforcement to enforce this and this section seems a bit vague,” Kennedy said.

Sheriff Crider is opposed to the initiative, but not to gun regulation.

“I was and still am opposed to 1639 in its entirety.  I believe 1639 was based on a false assumption that it will curtail shootings.  I don’t accept the premise of ‘assault rifle’ for every semi-automatic rifle. The entire thing is ambiguous with regards to the training and storage issue,” Sheriff Crider said.

When further asked about the larger Washington state gun regulation system, Crider stated the following:

“I think there is room for improvement in the background check system both at the state and federal level.  There are some issues, which are being addressed, with the various systems communicating with each other and we need to fix that.  I don’t think there is a need for increased checks we just need to make sure we have good information in the system and that it is readily available,” Sheriff Crider said.

Although I-1639 is an important step in the direction of increasing gun regulation laws and enhancing public safety, it is not clear whether the initiative as written will be sufficiently effective. The initiative, although its clarity is contested, has attracted national attention in the current social climate. As mass shootings and gun violence are tragically common in our country, with the frequency of shootings increasing each year and the threat becoming a normalized reality for so many in our country, the nation’s standpoint is something needs to change.

 

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