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Sheriffs in conservative counties in Washington refuse to enforce new gun law

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Local sheriff says he won

SPOKANE, Wash– Sheriffs in a dozen Washington counties say they won’t enforce the state’s sweeping new restrictions on semi-automatic rifles until the courts decide whether they are constitutional.

A statewide initiative approved by voters in November raised the minimum age for buying semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, required buyers to first pass a firearms safety course and added expanded background checks and gun storage requirements, among other things. It was among the most comprehensive of a string of state-level gun-control measures enacted in the U.S. after last year’s shooting at a Florida high school.

The National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation have filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging the initiative is unconstitutional. They say its purchasing requirements violate the right to bear arms and stray into the regulation of interstate commerce, which is the province of the federal government.

Sheriffs in 12 mostly rural, conservative counties — Grant, Lincoln, Okanogan, Cowlitz, Douglas, Benton, Pacific, Stevens, Yakima, Wahkiakum, Mason and Klickitat — along with the police chief of the small town of Republic, have said they will not enforce the new law until the issues are decided by the courts.

“I swore an oath to defend our citizens and their constitutionally protected rights,” Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones said. “I do not believe the popular vote overrules that.”

Initiative supporters say they are disappointed but noted the sheriffs have no role in enforcing the new restrictions until July 1, when the expanded background checks take effect. The provision brings vetting for semi-automatic rifle and other gun purchases in line with the process for buying pistols.

“The political grandstanding is disheartening,” said Renee Hopkins, chief executive of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which pushed the initiative. “If they do not (run the background checks), we will have a huge problem.”

Initiative 1639 was passed by about 60 percent of Washington voters nine months after a gunman opened fire at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The Parkland shooting, which left 17 dead, fueled a shift in the country’s political landscape regarding gun control. Other state-level measures included requiring waiting periods and banning high-capacity magazines. Nine states have approved laws that allow the temporary confiscation of weapons from people deemed a safety risk, bringing the total to 14 nationwide. Several more are likely to follow in the coming months.

At the federal level, for the first time in modern history, gun-control groups outspent the NRA on the 2018 midterm elections. President Donald Trump directed the Justice Department to issue regulations to ban so-called bump stocks. And the new Democratic majority in the House last week held its first hearing on gun control in a decade.

“For far too long, Republicans in Congress have offered moments of silence instead of action in the wake of gun tragedies. That era is over,” Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York said as he convened the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Washington’s initiative targeted semi-automatic assault rifles like the AR-15 used in the Florida shooting and other recent high-profile attacks. Such rifles fire only once for each pull of the trigger but automatically eject and rechamber a new round after each shot.

Grant County’s sheriff said many residents in his part of the state, known for its vast potato farms, are strong supporters of gun rights. They “have a right to have this challenge and appeals process play out before moving forward,” Jones said.

Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers noted more than 75 percent of voters in his small county just west of Spokane voted against the initiative. He called the new rules unenforceable.

On the flip side, the sheriff’s offices in King County, which includes Seattle, and Clark County, near Portland, Oregon, have said they will enforce the measure while it is being challenged in court.

Carla Tolle of Kelso, in Cowlitz County, north of Portland, is an initiative supporter whose grandson was shot to death by a friend wielding a shotgun in 2017 in what was ultimately ruled an accidental shooting.

She said she was “shocked, devastated, dumbfounded” to learn Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman said he will not enforce the stricter gun rules until the legal case is resolved.

“He saw firsthand what happened with an unsecured firearm,” Tolle said. “He saw the effect on both families.”

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Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has criticized the initiative while also decrying “grandstanding” sheriffs who decline to enforce it.

Hopkins, of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, noted only a relatively small number of Washington’s law enforcement leaders are speaking against the measure, while many others support it.

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Washington state could become first state to allow human composting

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Washington state could become first state to allow human composting

Washington state lawmakers on Friday passed a bill that would allow residents take part in “natural organic reduction” of human remains, citing in part research that said careful composted human remains could be safe for use in a household garden, reports said.

The Seattle Times reported that Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s office on Friday said he did not review the final legislation. Inslee– who is running for president— has been active on Twitter since the state Senate and House of Representative passed bill 5001, but did not mention the bill in any posts. The bill reportedly passed easily and had bipartisan support.

The report pointed out that the measure has been several years in the making. There was a trial that involved six backers who agreed to organic reduction. The results were positive and “the soil smelled like soil and nothing else,” the report said.

Troy Hottle, a fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told the paper that the method is as “close to the natural process of decomposition [as] you’d assume a body would undergo before we had an industrialized society.”

An NBC News report last year said the procedure could cost $5,500.

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“People from all over the state who wrote to me are very excited about the prospect of becoming a tree or having a different alternative for themselves,” Democratic state Sen. Jamie Pedersen told NBC.

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Ben Carson explains benefits of investing in ‘Opportunity Zones’ for areas facing economic challenges

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Ben Carson explains benefits of investing in 'Opportunity Zones' for areas facing economic challenges

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson spoke on “The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton” in an interview that aired Sunday about proposed new regulations aimed at making it easier for investors to take advantage of tax breaks for investing in “Opportunity Zones” in low-income areas.

“Policies have been pretty much aimed at putting people into programs,” Carson said, and now the Trump administration is trying to get poor Americans “out of the programs and self-sufficient.”

President Trump said last week that 8,700 neighborhoods across all 50 states and U.S. territories have received the Opportunity Zone designation and would be eligible for the federal tax incentives he’s proposed.

“The entire island of Puerto Rico is an opportunity zone,” Carson said.

“We are very concerned about the rural areas, too,” he added.

Trump’s proposed regulations were issued by the Treasury Department. They sought to clear up questions that were keeping some investors from using the incentives.

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The program was included in the $1.5 trillion tax cut legislation that Trump pushed through Congress in 2017.

The new Opportunity Zones were set up to enable private investors to re-invest profits into designated areas.

“They are going to invest that money somewhere,” Carson said.

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He noted private investors would do what they do because they “want to be successful.”

As White House officials have explained, investors in Opportunity Zones could get tax benefits by deferring their capital gains taxes invested in the zones until 2026. They also could receive discounts of up to 15 percent on capital-gains profits invested in the zones and would pay no capital-gains taxes on investments in the zones held for at least 10 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tulsi Gabbard: Mueller report found ‘no collusion took place,’ Dems shouldn’t push to impeach Trump

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Tulsi Gabbard: Mueller report found 'no collusion took place,' Dems shouldn't push to impeach Trump

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a 2020 candidate for president, told Fox News on Sunday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election found “no collusion” between President Trump and Russia — and that it’s time for the country to focus on the issues that matter most to Americans.

Gabbard, a Democrat, told “America’s News HQ” that while she supported the Mueller investigation, “the conclusion that came from that Mueller report was that no collusion took place. Now is the time for us to come together as a country to put the issues and the interests and the concerns that the American people have at the forefront, to take action to bring about real solutions for them.”

She continued, “I don’t think that we should defeat Donald Trump through impeachment. I think it’s really important for us, in this country, to come together and have the American people vote to take Donald Trump out of office in 2020.”

Gabbard’s position came in direct contrast to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who last Friday called on the House of Representatives to start impeachment proceedings. Warren explained Saturday at an event in New Hampshire, “I know people say this is politically charged and we shouldn’t go there, and that there is an election coming up, but there are some things that are bigger than politics.”

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Also Friday, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, another 2020 candidate, said launching impeachment proceedings would be “perfectly reasonable.”

Gabbard countered, “What I am worried about is the continued divisiveness and putting partisan political interests ahead of the interest of the people,” citing a voter’s concerns about making ends meet while struggling with the costs of health care.

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The Justice Department released a redacted version of Mueller’s report last Thursday. Mueller wrote that he found no proof of collusion between Trump and Russia, and did not draw a conclusion over accusations the president may have obstructed justice.

For his part, President Trump tweeted on Sunday, “Despite No Collusion, No Obstruction, The Radical Left Democrats do not want to go on to Legislate for the good of the people, but only to Investigate and waste time. This is costing our Country greatly, and will cost the Dems big time in 2020!”

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Leland Vittert contributed to this report.

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