The National Rifle Association sued earlier this year to stop Washington state voters from considering a package of gun control measures known as Initiative 1639, but the state Supreme Court rejected their legal arguments. On Election Day, nearly 60 percent of the state’s voters rejected the gun group’s political arguments that the initiative would “criminalize self-defense.”
Now one of the organization’s local activist leaders in Washington state wants to take his bullets and go home — by having the more-conservative eastern part of the state secede and form a pro-gun state of its own.
The new restrictions included in the ballot initiative include a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles for those under the age of 21, stricter background checks and a waiting period for those who do purchase them, and safe-storage requirements for all firearms.
According to the group’s Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) state page for Washington, Jim Lydigsen is the official “Frontline Activist Leader” for the city of Selah. After the gun restrictions overwhelmingly passed, Lydigsen reportedly emailed the opinion editor of the Columbian, a Washington local newspaper, to demand secession for his part of the state.
“Following passage of I-1639 it has become clear to me that now, more than before, Eastern Washington MUST separate from Western Washington,” he wrote. “This means forming a new state ‘Liberty.’”
But this idea is nothing new. Its chief proponent is a Republican state representative named Matt Shea, who made national headlines earlier this month for his manifesto outlining the “biblical basis” for a religious holy war to stop abortion and same-sex marriage.
Shea, who boasted of an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association and the NRA-PVF’s endorsement on his 2018 re-election site, has proposed that “Liberty” be the nation’s 51st state and lists among his reasons that Washington “Doesn’t Respect the Right to Bear Arms.”
Shea fiercely opposed I-1639, claiming that the package “strips the right to bear arms of those 18-20 years old. It effectively makes firearms unavailable for self-defense by requiring them to be locked up (or the owner could face criminal charges). It allows government collection and use of gun owner information to enforce ‘compliance’ and AUTHORIZE GUN CONFISCATION.”
His secession group put out a “Public Service Announcement” after I-1639’s passage, opining that that “just a few counties on the west side obliterated the unified vote of eastern Washington.”
“The passing of I-1639 was a travesty for those of us who cherish the right to self-defense,” the group claimed. “Now, because the masses of lemmings in the urbanized portions of Washington state want you and me disarmed, it will soon be illegal for young, responsible 18 – 20-year-old adults to be able to choose certain types of firearms for their self-defense.”
The group then suggested that the initiative removes citizens’ power to “resist tyranny” and that “there is only one solution — Liberty State.”
The NRA did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about whether it agrees with its “Frontline Activist Leader,” Lydigsen, and its endorsed state Representative on the secession issue. On Thursday, it filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the new gun restrictions are unconstitutional.