Civil Liberties

Gun Owners Defy Washington Background Check Law as Rally Organizer Burns His Carry Permit


I Will Not Comply
YouTube Screen Capture

Organizers of the "I Will Not Comply" rally promised mass defiance of Washington's new universal background check law in Olympia on Saturday and they met their goal. Washington State Police estimate about 1,000 attendees, while KIRO reports that "hundreds openly carried their firearms." Attendees also overtly swapped firearms back and forth without (*gasp*) background checks in explicit violation of the law. Police stood by watching and probably wishing they were elsewhere.

As I noted when the rally was first organized, the fellow credited with organizing the rally is Gavin Seim, who burned his concealed carry permit in front of attendees in protest of legal restrictions on weapons ownership.

According to The Olympian:

An estimated 1,000 gun rights activists converged Saturday on the Capitol Campus, toting American flags, wearing camouflage and carrying their guns.

The armed citizens turned out to participate in an I Will Not Comply rally, protesting Initiative 594, a measure passed by voters that expands background checks for firearm sales and transfers.

"We're going to stand up for our rights," event organizer Gavin Seim said. "Our rights are not up for negotiation."

Many in the crowd participated in what was touted as a group act of noncompliance, passing their guns to one another. No one was arrested as a result, and Washington State Patrol trooper Guy Gill said the agency was not treating the acts as a crime.

"We're not convinced that handing someone a gun is a violation of 594," Gill said.

Washington law enforcement officials may take that position when facing an armed crowd of ticked off but well behaved gun owners, but not everybody agrees. For instance, Dave Kopel, a prominent firearms expert and adjunct professor at the University of Denver's law school, thinks the plain language of the law does apply to simply holding somebody else's firearm. See the two felonious attendees in the photo above and the video below.

As an illustration of just how mainstream gun rights have become, the Seattle Times account of the protest placed it within the long American history of civil disobedience.

Following a tradition going back to at least the Whiskey Rebellion of the early 1790s, demonstrators gathered here Saturday afternoon at the Capitol to protest the tyranny of what they consider unlawful American government.

But instead of decrying a tax on distilled liquor such as Pennsylvanians did just years after the U.S. Constitution was ratified, demonstrators here at the "I Will Not Comply" rally denounced a law expanding gun-purchase background checks that was approved last month by Washington voters.

That the protest was peaceful, high-profile, and well-attended should only encourage other opponents of the (frankly unenforceable) background check law to add their own disobedience to the mix.