WEST RICHLAND, Wash. — Even before the vote Washington state initiative measure 1639, a new state law forcing gun stores to only sell semiautomatic assault rifles to people older than 21, was considered controversial.
The devil is in the details, or at least that's the way Talos Tactical store owner Matt Ciesler is interpreting I-1639.
He says he'll continue selling to lawful adults before they turn 21, and he's surprised more stores aren't doing the same.
The entrepreneur told Action News the new law says 18 to 20-year-olds can legally buy "semiautomatic assault rifles" until July of 2019.
He feels justified in his decision because the rest of the measure, including the portion defining "semiautomatic assault rifles" won't go into effect until later this year.
(25) "Semiautomatic assault rifle" means any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge. "Semiautomatic assault rifle" does not include antique firearms, any firearm that has been made permanently inoperable, or any firearm that is manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action.
"So for us this is an attempt at being compliant," explained Ciesler. "I think a lot of the community is viewing this as a bit of an attempt to be a little bit edgy and it's exactly the opposite. From day one here, we've always complied 100% with the law. This is a brand new law, we think we understand it. We've been vetting through local law enforcement every step of the way."
Down the road at The Bunker in Richland, owner Steve Krause agrees with Ciesler.
"The law is written horribly," Krause said. "I don't know that it's confusing per-se, you know the definitions are there ... and according to the letter-of-the-law it's not enforceable."
Still, Krause says he doesn't think it's worth the risk and his store started enforcing the age restriction on Tuesday, January 1.
Krause is a veteran of both the U.S. Navy and National Guard and says he doesn't think Ciesler will get in trouble, but his store is going to play it safe because he has a family to feed.
He said he doesn't want to upset the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
"That's the only reason, the only reason we've chosen not to sell to the 18 to 20 year-olds," he said. "As a small business owner, if something was to come about and we had to go through a lengthy court-battle, I don't know that our family could afford to do that."
Still, he says he understands why Ciesler is taking a stand and more importantly he supports his right to do so, no matter what.
"Absolutely," he said. "100 percent."
West Richland police say they're interpreting the law the same way as Ciesler, and until the official definition of semiautomatic assault rifle is made law this summer, Talos Tactical is within their rights to proceed as usual.
Review I-1639 in it's entirety here: Washington State Initiative Measure No. 1639.
UPDATE 11:30 PM: Headline adjusted in order to more adequately describe story content.
UPDATE 1/5/19: Headline and content corrected to include the newly-created definition of semiautomatic assault rifles as seen in I-1639, Sec. 16 (25)