NRA sues to block new Washington gun-control measure

SEATTLE — Gun rights groups including the National Rifle Association on Thursday sued to block a new, voter-approved gun control measure from taking effect in Washington state.

Initiative 1639 passed last week with 60 percent of the vote. It bars the sale of semi-automatic rifles to people under 21 and to people who don't live in Washington, and it requires buyers to pass an enhanced background check and prove they have taken a firearms training course.

The NRA and the Bellevue, Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation sued in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Thursday, saying the measure violates the right to bear arms and strays into the regulation of interstate commerce, which is the province of the federal government.

"We are disappointed that too many voters were fooled into supporting this 30-page gun control scheme, despite overwhelming law enforcement opposition," Second Amendment Foundation Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb said in a written statement. "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."

The lawsuit does not directly challenge the parts of the law pertaining to enhanced background checks or training requirements. However, the groups asked the court to block the entire law pending a determination of whether those provisions can be separated from the parts they are seeking to block: those related to sales to those under 21 and to out-of-state residents.

In an email, Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, said Thursday officials were still reviewing the lawsuit. "We intend to defend the will of the voters in this state," she wrote.

Tallman Trask, a spokesman for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which supported the initiative, said the legal challenge was unsurprising, given that the groups also sued to challenge the measure's language and to keep it off the ballot in the first place. The organization will fight for the law, he said.

"It's the single most comprehensive gun violence prevention measure in Washington state history," Trask said. "It will make our state safer and help save lives."