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Federal judge upholds Washington gun Initiative 1639 in lawsuit from NRA

Republic Police Chief Loren Culp, who is running for Washington governor, gained national attention for defying the controversial gun reform initiative.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A federal judge upheld I-1639, a controversial gun reform initiative in Washington state, in a lawsuit leveled by the National Rifle Association.

Nearly 60% of Washington voters passed I-1639 during the November 2018 election. Some provisions of the law began in January, with others that began on July 1, 2019.

The initiative bars the sale of semi-automatic rifles to people under 21 and to people who don't live in Washington and requires buyers to pass an enhanced background check and prove they have taken a firearms training course. 

Republic Police Chief Loren Culp, who is challenging incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee in the November general election, gained national political attention by defying I-1639 in his town of 1,100 people. This led to appearances in conservative media, a book tour and the start of his campaign. 

RELATED: Republican Loren Culp says he's ready to challenge Inslee for governor as the 'law and order' candidate

The National Rifle Association announced the lawsuit to block I-1639 in November 2018. The Second Amendment Foundation based in Bellevue, Washington, joined the lawsuit, saying the measure violates the 2nd Amendment and strays into the regulation of interstate commerce. 

RELATED: NRA suing to block Initiative 1639

Judge Ronald Leighton, a federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush, granted Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson's motion for summary judgment ruling that I-1639 does not violate the U.S. Constitution. 

Judge Ronald Leighton, a President George W. Bush-appointed federal judge, granted Ferguson’s motion for summary judgment ruling that I-1639 does not violate the Constitution.

The law implemented the same enhanced background checks, waiting periods and purchasing requirements for semiautomatic assault rifle purchases that have long been in place for handgun purchases, the summary judgment says. 

"Our victory before Bush-appointed federal judge upholds the will of the People and preserves enhanced background checks and waiting periods for assault weapon purchases," Ferguson wrote in a tweet.

Leighton decided a trial was unnecessary to resolve the case, according to a news release from Ferguson's office

In order to rule on summary judgment, there must be no genuine dispute over any material fact and the judge must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the opposing party. In this case, the NRA was the opposing party. 

“An overwhelming majority of Washington voters approved Initiative 1639,” Ferguson said. “The NRA continues to challenge voter-approved, common sense gun reforms – and they continue to lose. I will not allow the NRA to undermine the will of the voters. If they choose to appeal, we will beat them again.”

The Second Amendment Foundation and others challenged Initiative 594 after it was adopted in 2014 to close the background check loophole. A federal trial court dismissed the challenge to I-594 and an appeals court upheld the ruling. 

KING 5 staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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