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Student-led movement speaks out against I-1639 ‘sanctuary city’


They’re part of student-led movement demanding tougher gun laws that started after the Parkland school shooting.

RELATED: Little town of Republic at the center of gun controversy

Students with “We Won’t Be Next Seattle” campaigned hard to get I-1639 to the ballot and had been celebrating its passage, until they heard about the position of a small town police chief in Eastern Washington.

“It’s totally against my oath of office, which is to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Washington state, and I will not enforce it,” Republic Police Chief Loren Culp declared just over a week ago.

Local “We Won’t Be Next” co-founder and Kamiak High School Senior Niko Battle was floored.

“When I saw that for the first time I thought we can’t let this stand. We can’t set a precedent, especially as student activists who spent countless hours fighting for this initiative, we can’t set a precedent that it’s okay for our leaders to say ‘you got the change that you were hoping for and that you were fighting for, but we’re still going to decide to slap you in the face and to not enforce it,'” Battle said.

Battle says not enforcing the law is a threat to the state.

“It’s critical to demand and to ensure that every elected official or every community leader enforces all parts of initiative 1639, unlike what the Police Chief of Republic, Washington Loren Culp is trying to do, because that rhetoric and that ideology, that ‘because I don’t agree with the law I don’t have to enforce it’ is something that is dangerous to the integrity of the law as it effects the entire state,” Battle said.

In refusing to enforce the new gun laws in I-1639, Chief Culp pointed out that while it was approved by nearly 60 percent of the voters statewide, it was overwhelmingly rejected in all but two counties east of the Cascades including his, meaning that vote of approval does not represent his town.

Battle gets that, but says it’s not the point.

I understand where they’re coming from, but that does not mean that they don’t have to enforce the laws. I’m sure that there are many laws in many Red states across this country where urban cities or Blue-leaning areas would want to just ignore the law, but we can’t do that and it’s for good reason. If cities like Republic across the state start deciding not to enforce the law, we (are left) with a state that has a circumvention issue, and what I mean by that is, if someone can go into Republic and buy a gun and drive back to Seattle, what has the law really done?

He says the chief’s actions have ignited fresh efforts from the group for even more new gun restrictions included in a Student Bill of Rights — a list of 14 gun violence prevention proposals students from across the country created at the Student Gun Violence Summit in Washington D.C. last month.

While some of the 14 proposals are already laws in Washington state or about to be, others go further, including a driver’s license-type process to own a gun, and imposing much stricter limitations to semi-automatic rifles by restricting them the same as machine guns are in a 1986 federal law.

The students are calling on all state lawmakers to sign on to the Student Bill of Rights, and support any legislation that covers, including those that address mental health issues, school safety, and the disproportionate way low income and students of color are affected by gun violence.

Battle also disagrees with the chief’s claim that the laws are unconstitutional, and challenged him to a debate to work that out and explain how I-1639 can be enforced without infringing on rights.

Chief Culp has not responded to that challenge.

If the chief continues to refuse to enforce I-1639 when the laws actually take effect, Battle and other students with “We Won’t Be Next Seattle” are calling on State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to step in.

Ferguson’s office has said it will review Chief Culp’s proposed resolution to declare Republic a Second Amendment sanctuary city if the city council adopts it. During a council meeting last week, the council delayed voting on the issue so it could further investigate the proposal.

Chief Culp says regardless of the outcome of the vote, he and his officers will not enforce I-1639 laws should they survive legal challenges by the NRA and Second Amendment Foundation.

RELATED: Washington task force attempts to address mass shootings

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