A pro-Second Amendment rally hosted by Patriot Prayer and the Washington Three Percent on Saturday at Woodland’s Horseshoe Lake Park attracted almost 100 people, who came to hear advice on how to protect their right to bear arms.
“This is grassroots here. You can change what’s going on in your cities,” said Matt Marshall, leader of Washington Three Percent. “It’s going to take all of us, each and every one, to fight back against these infringements.”
The rally focused on Initiative 1639, a recently passed law that mandates background checks and gun safety training for what it calls “semi-automatic assault rifles” and raises the minimum age to purchase and possess such guns from 18 to 21.
The age restriction went into place January 1, while the rest of the provisions go into effect July 1.
Leaders for Patriot Prayer and Washington Three Percent said the initiative is unconstitutional because it infringes on the Second Amendment. These groups also oppose the law’s definition of a semi automatic assault rifle — which they argue is too broad and classifies a basic .22 hunting rifle as an assault weapon — as well as the stricter background checks, they said.
“Before the initiative passed, there was no definition of an assault rifle,” Marshall said, noting that several bills introduced this legislative session use the I-1639 definition for “semi-automatic assault rifles.” “It was clearly a gateway so they could restrict more gun rights,” Marshall said.
Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson added that the background checks require gun owners to “sign away your medical privacy rights” and become a “second-class citizen” before buying a firearm.
At the rally, the two groups encouraged citizens to “put pressure” on their city government to adopt “sanctuary ordinances” that oppose the initiative. Under those ordinances, a city or county could chose not to enforce the new law.
“We aren’t asking people to break the law. We aren’t asking sheriffs to break the law,” Gibson said during the rally. “We are just asking they follow the Constitution.”
At the end of January, Cowlitz County Commissioners passed a resolution opposing the initiative. The resolution says the commissioners consider I-1639 and other laws that infringe upon the right to bear arms “unconstitutional and beyond lawful application of its legislative and governance authority or duties.”
Four other Washington countries have followed suit, Marshal said.
But Clark County has yet to pass such a resolution. And Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins released a statement on the department’s Facebook page earlier this month standing by the new law.
“The Clark County Sheriff’s Office will adhere to the law as passed by a vote of the people unless a court rules that it is unconstitutional,” the statement reads.
Patriot Prayer and Washington Three Percent visited Woodland to “get people excited about pushing for a local ordinance,” Gibson said. The two groups have hosted rallies across a number of Washington cities in the last month, he said.
“Most of the places we’ve been going, we have the support of the sheriff,” Gibson said. “But not in Clark County. … I have a lot of respect for law enforcement in this area. I’m just upset with Sheriff Atkins’ decision to not uphold the Constitution.”
Law enforcement did not appear to be present at the rally Saturday, though a sheriff’s vehicle was parked at Horseshoe Lake Park for about 15 minutes of the 90-minute rally, which took place in the park’s shelter.
Although some of Patriot Prayer’s past events have been marred by violence, the rally in Woodland remained peaceful. Longview resident and rally speaker Aaron Babcock said the rally and ordinances are “baby steps to … an intellectual revolution with paperwork instead of violence.”
Marshall added that the groups are “trying to make change the right way: through our politicians.”