Robin Can’t Let it Rest

Dear Group,

Every law, ordinance, and initiative, no matter its good intent and overall societal benefit, exists without a detractor, someone who can tell a story of how this rule is hurtful and unfair to them—and ought, therefore, to be resisted and overturned.

In the last three decades or so the Republican/Libertarians many times have successfully applied this story-telling principle in their pursuit of political power. 

Many are the examples, but there are few better than those constructed around the Second Amendment. Before the dust from the election had a chance to settle, Robin Ball, former chairwoman of the Spokane County Republicans and owner of Sharp Shooting Indoor Range and Gun Shop on Freya Avenue in Spokane, was primed and ready with a story and lawsuit challenging Initiative 1639, the Washington State initiative to the people putting in place a number of common sense gun regulations around background checks and age restrictions. I-1639 passed with 60% of the vote statewide and slightly more than 50% even in Spokane County.

The announcement of Robin’s lawsuit appeared in the Spokesman already last Friday, November 16th, entitled “Gun-rights supporters sue to block I-1639.” I’ve pasted it below:

Jim Camden, Nov. 16, 2018

A Spokane gun dealer and four Washington residents who soon will be too young to buy semi-automatic rifles are among those filing a federal challenge to the state’s recently passed gun control measure.

Robin Ball, owner of the Sharp Shooting Indoor Range & Gun Shop, is among those joining with the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation in a lawsuit that contends Initiative 1639 violates the U.S. Constitution and portions of federal law.

Although the results of the Nov. 6 election won’t be certified until Dec. 6, I-1639 is passing with nearly 60 percent of the vote. The initiative restricts the sale of semiautomatic rifles to Washington residents who are at least 21, pass an enhanced background check and meet other requirements for training.

In a news release announcing the suit, foundation founder Alan Gottlieb said plaintiffs were “disappointed that too many voters were fooled into supporting this 30-page gun control scheme. This measure will have a chilling effect on the exercise of the constitutional rights of honest citizens while having no impact on criminals and we will not let it go unchallenged.”

Ball and a Vancouver gun dealer contend the initiative violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution because it will no longer allow them sell those rifles to out-of-state residents.

Four Washington residents, dubbed “Young Adult Plaintiffs,” are challenging the provisions that will keep them from buying a semiautomatic rifle before they turn 21. They include Nathaniel Casey, described in the lawsuit as a 19-year-old Spokane resident who is a member of the Army Reserves where he’s been trained on fully automatic weapons. Casey owns a semi-automatic rifle and plans to purchase more.

The folks bringing legal action are some of the same local Republicans who quietly auctioned off an assault rifle at their Lincoln Day Dinner after announcing they would not. These Republicans, politically joined at the hip with the National Rifle Association, want to make sure this issue stays in the spotlight. After all, they’ve been riling their base for decades claiming the Democrats are coming for their guns.

Robin Ball owns a gun shop in Spokane, the major population center in the inland northwest by far. What percentage of her business of selling weaponry (this is not a store that caters mostly to hunters) comes from out of state? Not much, I’ll venture. North Idaho offers plenty assault weaponry. Robin Ball joined this lawsuit as a political operative. 

Nathaniel Casey, the aggrieved 19 year old, is already training with full automatic assault weaponry in the Army Reserves. I-1639 merely restricts him from directly purchasing the semi-automatic version of such weaponry for his personal use. I have no sympathy for Mr. Casey. By his involvement in the Army Reserves he already has access to training with weaponry for which there is no use in civilian life. If he wishes to engage in marksmanship competition outside the Army Reserves, let him so engage in the controlled setting of an established gun range as part of a group. That his supposed “right” to buy people-killing weaponry is slightly restricted by I-1639 is entirely appropriate in pursuit of the common good.

Mr. Gottlieb (of the Second Amendment Foundation, a 501(c)(3) based in Bellevue, WA) and Robin Ball of Sharp Shooting are Republican political operatives using the Second Amendment as a wedge issue in hope of benefit to the Party. Mr. Gottlieb’s worn argument that gun regulation like I-1639 will “have no impact on criminals” while infringing on the “rights” of honest citizens needs a better narrative lines than young Mr. Casey’s or Ms. Ball’s. I have no sympathy for either story.

It is time to consider the common good over the imagined rights of a few to buy and parade with people-killing weaponry. 

Robin won’t let it rest because she thinks it is a winning narrative…but the tide is turning…her stories no longer resonate like they may have once. Assault weaponry more readily brings to mind images of schoolchildren suffering and dying than it does of pioneers wielding flintlock rifles.

In this setting McMorris Rodgers wants to have her cake and eat it, too. She projects her smiling mom image to the general public while she votes consistently with NRA not just to “defend” the Second Amendment but to encourage the proliferation of assault weaponry and paraphernalia. (Read here and here.) It is a tricky image, an image that one day may trip her up.

Keep to the high ground,