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U.S. Federal Court Rejects Gun Lobby Bid to Overturn Initiative 594


(Seattle, Wash) – Today, Judge Benjamin H. Settle entered an order dismissing the gun lobby’s lawsuit against Initiative 594. The order granted a Motion to Dismiss filed by the Attorney General and joined by the Initiative 594 coalition, dealing a major blow to the gun lobby’s effort to overturn the voter-approved background check initiative. Previously, Judge Settle had granted the coalition’s request to intervene in the suit, Northwest School of Safety v. Ferguson. This ruling represents the second consecutive victory in the case for the Initiative 594 coalition after Cheryl Stumbo, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, and Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund for I-594 were admitted as intervenor-defendants in March.

“Today is a tremendous victory for the people of Washington, whose decision to close the background check loophole has been upheld,” said Cheryl Stumbo. “From the beginning it’s been clear that the gun lobby’s lawsuit was a case of sour grapes — and that their frivolous claims would be dismissed quickly and completely. Now, it’s time for the gun lobby to accept the court’s decision and the will of the people of Washington and abandon its bid to overturn Initiative 594.”

In his order, Judge Settle wrote, “the Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and…hereby grants the motion and dismisses Plaintiffs’ claims without prejudice…” The court rejected a series of far-fetched scenarios in which I-594’s challengers said their Second Amendment rights would be harmed, saying their “alleged threat of prosecution is not genuine” and that because “Plaintiffs have failed to show a genuine or imminent threat of prosecution” they lack “standing to bring this challenge.”

Judge Settle’s order represents a clear victory for the Initiative 594 coalition, though this is likely not the end of the gun lobby’s legal assault against Washington’s background check law. If the plaintiffs do not abandon their claims against Initiative 594, they may appeal the dismissal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, or try again filing another lawsuit in the unlikely event they could identify a plaintiff who actually did suffer any injury.

The dismissed lawsuit was filed by a coalition of gun lobby figures and organizations who led the campaign to pass competing Initiative 591 and weaken Washington’s gun laws in 2014. Prior to the dismissal, the plaintiffs had opposed the Initiative 594 coalition’s Motion to Intervene on the basis that the coalition had “nothing to add.” The court rejected that argument just as it rejected plaintiffs’ claims today.

The case is Northwest School of Safety et. al. v. Bob Ferguson, No. CV-06026-BHS in the federal District Court for the Western District of Washington.