When I hear the words ‘citizen’s arrest,’ I immediately go back to an episode of the Andy Griffith Show where Gomer is chasing Barney’s patrol car screaming those words because Barney made an illegal U-turn.
But this is not a sitcom or 1963 Mayberry, this is real life.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has become the topic of conversation across the state, most predominantly amongst supporters of the 2ndAmendment. Those conversations have gotten so intense that some are talking about a citizen’s arrest of Ferguson. And it’s not the only part of the country.
But let’s start with Washington and the “why”.
New firearms regulations in the state and Ferguson’s support of them.
According to the Seattle Times, Scott Bannister, who organized a meeting in Yelm, said he was working with Matt Marshall of Washington Three Percenters, which has been heavily focused on gun rights, to file more citizen complaints early next month.
The complaints allege that by infringing on people’s right to bear arms, Ferguson has committed misdemeanors such as official misconduct, and failure of duty by a public officer.
“I want to see him go to prison for treason,” said Bannister, a retiree and veteran who is assembling the citizen complaints. “But I wanted the backing of the sheriff, because I don’t want to get shot by the state police.”
In a statement, Ferguson said he respects residents’ right to “express their disagreement with a decision by nearly 60% of Washingtonians to adopt common sense gun reform.”
“That said, their actions won’t deter me from doing my job and defending the will of the people,” Ferguson added in prepared remarks.
Apparently, Ferguson has forgotten what his job is. According to the oath of office that he took, his job’s first duty is to support the Constitution of the United States.
Perhaps he also forgot that he swore to do that job, faithfully discharging the duties of the office of the state Attorney General to the best of his ability.
If the best of your ability is anything less than full support of the Constitution of the United States, then you have violated your oath of office and should therefore be ineligible to continuing to serve in an official capacity.
And what of that meeting in Yelm?
While there weren’t a large number of attendees, many that were there wore insignia of the Washington Three Percenters, according to the Seattle Times report.
For those unfamiliar with Three Percent, it is a group whose website says its goal is to “utilize the fail safes put in place by our founders to rein in an overreaching government and push back against tyranny.”
The primary topic of conversation that evening focused on new restrictions approved in recent years by Washington’s voters and lawmakers, laws that those in attendance say are violating their Second Amendment rights.
Another item up for debate was Initiative 1639, a measure broadly approved last year by nearly 60% of Washington voters. It is also one that created an extreme level of frustration amongst many county sheriffs, who have said that they won’t enforce it.
Should legal efforts fail to halt the new gun laws, several in the crowd already are pondering drastic action against a government they view as stacked against them.
Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza and County Commissioner Gary Edwards, on hand to answer questions, said they didn’t like the many gun restrictions passed in recent years, to include the new ‘red flag’ laws.
These statutes allow law enforcement to seize weapons from people in certain situations, such as protection orders in cases of domestic violence or people considered an extreme risk to themselves or others.
At the meeting, Snaza and Edwards urged those gathered to have patience and to not take matters into their own hands.
At one point, Snaza was asked if he’d sanction the formation of a militia for Thurston County.
“A militia would have to be sworn in by me,” Snaza said, and I wouldn’t permit that at this time.You know as well as I do, every sheriff is probably posed with questions like that.”
Along with the changes already mentioned, I-1639 raised the legal age for buying semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 and requires enhanced background checks to buy those weapons.
The law also created gross misdemeanor and felony categories for a new crime if someone not allowed to access a firearm, such as a felon or child, gets hold of one and displays it in public, fires it or uses it while committing a crime.
I-1639 passed with majorities in 14 counties, including King, Snohomish, Pierce and Thurston.
It is important to note, however, that it was opposed by law-enforcement groups and remains unpopular in rural Washington and among gun-rights supporters.
Since its passage, the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation have sued to block it, a lawsuit that is ongoing.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office, Brionna Aho, declined to comment on the citizen complaints or the prospect of a citizen’s arrest.
The concept of a citizen’s arrest came from England and the use of common law, used generally before the existence of organized police departments, according to Mary Fan, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law.
“Your typical citizen’s arrest is, there’s no police officer, and one person hit another person with their carriage,” said Fan, a former prosecutor who teaches criminal law.
A court rule allows for citizens to file their own complaints, according to Pam Loginsky of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. But in an email to the Times, Loginsky wrote that she believes the rule is unconstitutional.
Those gathered also talked about what they might do if their legal challenges were unsuccessful.
“At one point, it’s going to be push comes to shove, where we say these people need to be held accountable, and not just in the voting, because people are brainwashed now,” said one person in the crowd, adding later: “It’s starting to feel like all three branches are being stacked against us.”
Edwards, a former Thurston County sheriff, said to wait to see how the courts rule on the challenges.
“We have to let it play out as best we can,” said Edwards. “Because, you know, some folks have a romantic view of the Revolution, for example, but I can tell you it’s not a very romantic feel. It’ll be the pits if it happens.”
The commissioner said gun-rights supporters in Washington are seeing the same types of resistance that he believes President Donald Trump has faced in office.
“If we’re lucky, the president will get the courts stacked right,” Edwards added later. “If we’re not lucky, we might have a revolution.”
But it’s not just Washington. Retired law enforcement officers – many of whom are also veterans – have exclusively shared with Law Enforcement Today that there are talks of this happening across the country.
“There are organizations across America that are working to determine how to safely and legally conduct citizen’s arrests of leaders in New York, California, Washington, Connecticut, New York and other states,” one source told Law Enforcement Today.
They understand that trying to find a prosecutor to back them is a challenge, at best, and that the likelihood is that “some liberal judge will toss the case and push for an arrest warrant on us”. But it’s about sending a bigger message, a second source told us.
“When we were active, our hands were tied. Now people need to know that the unconstitutional actions of these ‘leaders’ aren’t going unnoticed… and the day of reckoning is coming for people to answer for breaking the law.”
They insist they want non-violent action and want to make the citizens arrests, if they come, in a way that doesn’t put any lives in jeopardy.
In the meantime, the assault on the 2nd Amendment continues, not only in Washington, but in other parts of the country. But now anti-gun lawmakers ae getting more creative.
In an effort to show that they are not after people’s firearms, they are making the ability to be adequately prepared to defend yourself with a firearm practically impossible.
Case in point?
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued an executive order last month, which specifically said the state should, within 30 days, take all appropriate action “to prohibit and/or limit the sale, procurement, marketing, or distribution of insurance products that may serve to encourage the improper use of firearms,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.
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What kind of issues rose from this order?
As a result of this latest bout with lunacy, the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) announced in early October that it would have to:
“Pull their services off the shelf for New Jersey gun owners.”
While USCCA, and other groups like them, is not an insurance company, the organization (of which I am a member) does offer concealed-carry liability insurance to its members in the event they are compelled to use their weapons in self-defense.
The problem is that states like New Jersey want to regulate organizations like USCCA because they list their membership as “beneficiaries” of their coverage, the press release explained.
And for that reason, they’re regulated by the state much like an insurance company.
That means that USCCA had no choice but to pull out of New Jersey or risk doing battle with the state’s Attorney General’s Office.
The governor’s press release proudly touted a consent order for a $1 million fine against one such company that had encouraged “the improper use of firearms,” according to New Jersey’s standard.
“Last week, the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance announced that Lockton Affinity, LLC agreed to pay a $1 million fine as part of a consent order with the department for administering a National Rifle Association-sponsored insurance program in violation of state insurance laws,” the release said.
It went on to justify the attack.
“An investigation by the department found that Kansas-based Lockton Affinity violated various state laws and regulations in administering the Carry Guard insurance program in New Jersey on behalf of the NRA. Offering an insurance product marketed by the NRA that encourages firearm use is a serious violation of public policy and today’s executive order takes steps to limit such policies’ availability in the State.”
Carry Guard insurance was created and marketed to be self-defense coverage for lawful gun-carriers but anti-gun activists labeled it “murder insurance” and that’s exactly how the state treated it.
Murphy’s executive order also directed state officials to ask all gun makers or retailers to reveal whether they have adopted best practices to reduce gun violence, and to find out how they screen for straw purchasers, firearms traffickers, and people who have been banned from owning or purchasing firearms.
“This is not intended at day one to be an adversarial act,” the governor said. “This is to express a broad statement of principles and values that matter to us deeply.”
The governor’s office said the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance would scrutinize all liability insurance offered in the state that encouraged the improper use of firearms.
However, the executive order did not define what the state considered “improper use of firearms” other than its obvious objection to concealed carry.
This order eliminates the financial protection that groups like USCCA afford law-abiding citizens of New Jersey. Anyone who uses a weapon to defend themselves, wounding or killing an assailant, will likely face a criminal trial, a wrongful-death civil suit, or both. The battles they face are not easy and they certainly are not cheap.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) said that Murphy’s executive order exceeds the governor’s authority by trying to regulate interstate commerce.
“The governor views licensed and law-abiding small businesses that are just trying to earn a living and are engaged in the commerce of a constitutionally protected product [as] somehow the problem,” NSSF General Counsel Lawrence Keene said.
New Jersey State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio is standing behind the governor’s executive order, saying that it is “using the power of our purse strings to set an example for others,” the press release said.
“The executive order being signed today will ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used wisely to procure goods and services from companies that act responsibly when it comes to firearms and ammunition and to create an opportunity for local and county governments who want to follow our lead,” Muoio said.
California now has a law requiring a background check every time you purchase ammunition. New Jersey will not allow self-defense insurance. As these new legalities continue to pop up, we can see the anti-gun crowd’s new tactic. They want to make the cost of gun-ownership, training with weapons and the choice to be armed for self-defense too costly for many law-abiding Americans.