LANSING - According to a March 8 press release, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in supporting a Washington state initiative regulating the sale of semiautomatic assault rifles.
The press release said the coalition filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of Washington in Mitchell v. Atkins. The attorneys general argue that states have the right to enact reasonable firearm regulations that protect public safety and reduce the prevalence of gun violence.
The coalition argues that this includes passing regulations to ensure that only individuals who are likely to use firearms responsibly are able to access them.
“States must have the ability to protect their residents from gun violence and they should be able to establish regulations that serve that purpose,” Nessel said. “Congress has adopted measures for handguns that are similar to what the state of Washington requires for semiautomatic rifles, and the challenged regulations simply provide additional safeguards to the public over and above our federal standards.”
Initiative Measure No.1639 was passed by the people of Washington in 2018. It established new rules on sales of semiautomatic assault rifles, requiring purchasers to be a certain age and have local law enforcement agencies conduct enhanced background checks on possible buyers. The measure also prohibits the in-person sales of semiautomatic assault rifles to nonresidents.
In 2019, a group of firearms dealers and prospective purchasers who did not meet the age requirement filed a lawsuit, alleging that Washington’s measure infringed on their Second Amendment rights and violated the dormant Commerce Clause. The district court ruled against the plaintiffs, and they appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
The press release said that in the amicus brief, the coalition argues that states have the responsibility and power to protect their residents by promoting safety, preventing crime and minimizing gun violence.
Additionally, states can enact specific regulations that are best tailored to their residents’ needs. These regulations include restrictions that prohibit the sale of firearms based on the purchaser’s age, which are found in all 50 states.
The press release said Nessel defends the age and background check requirements for purchasing semiautomatic assault rifles.
“A single life lost to gun violence is one too many, and states have an obligation to ensure they are serving in the public’s best interests,” Nessel said.
The coalition argues that states can also permissibly promote public safety by restricting in-person sales of firearms to state residents, as Washington has.
The press release said restricting the in-person sales of semiautomatic assault rifles to state residents allows states to conduct more robust background checks on those who purchase weapons, and better ensure that only individuals who are likely to use firearms responsibly can use them.
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