Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

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Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Dear Friends,

This month my office fought for the vulnerable populations of our state by speaking up for women, children and sexual assault victims.

We urged local law enforcement to enforce Initiative 1639 and reminded them of their lawful obligation to perform enhanced background checks on assault weapon purchases. We announced our intent to file a lawsuit blocking President Trump’s Title X “gag rule” to protect women’s access to reproductive healthcare and family planning.

We also continued our statewide efforts to test all sexual assault kits as part of our Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) and overcame the first major legislative hurdle in our proposal to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and vaping products to 21.

In this issue:

Thank you for following the work of the Attorney General’s Office.



Bob Ferguson
Washington State Attorney General

Attorney General Bob Ferguson writing a letter to law enforcement.

Letter to law enforcement regarding Initiative 1639

Washingtonians overwhelmingly adopted Initiative 1639 in November 2018, which requires enhanced background checks for the purchase of semiautomatic assault rifles. Unless a court rules otherwise, laws and initiatives passed by the people are presumed constitutional. My office will defend this initiative in court, and we are confident we will prevail.

Numerous sheriffs and police chiefs have stated that they will not implement or enforce the initiative.

In February, I wrote a letter to our law enforcement officials reminding them of their obligation to perform enhanced background checks for all assault weapon purchases in Washington state. These are identical to the enhanced background checks performed by local law enforcement that have long been required for all handgun purchases. These enhanced background checks include searches for outstanding warrants in the Washington State Patrol electronic database. They also include mental health checks with the Washington State Health Care Authority, such as records of individuals found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. According to the Health Care Authority, these mental health checks result in approximately 400 denials per year. I reiterated the importance of these background checks and outlined the potential liability law enforcement may face if they decline to perform them.  

I am deeply concerned that the failure of local law enforcement to perform Initiative 1639’s background check requirement will jeopardize public safety in our state by allowing the sale of semiautomatic assault rifles to dangerous individuals not lawfully allowed to own a gun.

In the event these officials refuse to perform the required check, their agencies could be held liable if there is a sale or transfer of a firearm to a dangerous individual prohibited from possessing a firearm and that individual uses that firearm to do harm.

As public officers, it is our duty to abide by the will of the people – not to substitute personal views over that of the people we serve.

The Seattle Times
Sheriffs who don’t enforce Washington’s new gun law could be liable, AG Bob Ferguson says

My Northwest
State AG issues warning to sheriffs not enforcing I-1639

KING5 News
Washington attorney general fires back at sheriffs over I-1639 enforcement

Washington’s attorney general says he’ll defend gun law some sheriffs call unconstitutional


A woman with her physician.

Standing up for low-income women’s access to healthcare

My legal team has challenged the Trump Administration’s “gag rule” by filing a lawsuit against this assault on our nation’s family planning provider network. This rule, if not blocked, will gut funding for reproductive healthcare, family planning services, and deprive millions of poor and low-income individuals of access to the contraception and other preventative healthcare they need.

This is a transparent attack on Planned Parenthood and women.

The “gag rule” permits Title X providers to withhold information from patients about their healthcare options, bars them from referring patients for abortion care and requires Title X clinics to physically separate abortion care and referrals from their services funded by Title X.

In 2017, more than 91,000 patients in Washington received care through Title X. For the four out of 10 women who receive contraceptive care from Title X-funded facilities, this is their only source of healthcare. If this rule goes into effect, it would affect 90 percent of Title X providers and would leave 21 counties without any Title X provider.

The “gag rule” will keep thousands of vulnerable Washingtonians from reasonably accessing contraception, cancer screening and other family planning care.

Patients should be able to make well-informed decisions based on complete, unbiased information about their healthcare options. Those decisions must stay between patients and their medical providers – not the federal government.

These changes to the Title X family planning program are unlawful and my legal team and I will do everything in our power to prevent President Trump inserting his politics between a woman and her physician.

KING5 News
Washington state sues over Trump’s abortion obstacles

The Spokesman-Review
Washington state ready to sue over Trump’s new abortion policy

The Seattle Times
Ferguson to sue Trump administration over new abortion regulations

The Washington Post
Washington state to sue over Trump’s new abortion policy

Processing a sexual assault kit.

Ending the sexual assault kit backlog

My office's Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Project (SAKI), funded by a $3 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, is part of a coordinated, statewide effort to test every single backlogged sexual assault kit in the state. 

This month I had the privilege of writing an op-ed with state representatives Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, and Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, discussing proposed reforms and our state’s commitment to end the backlog by December 2020.

Reps. Orwall and Mosbrucker have proposed House Bill 1166 which requires testing of new kits within 45 days. I am proud to support this legislation.

Testing these kits will identify serial rapists and provide answers to survivors and their families. Each sexual assault kit tells a story from a survivor that must be heard. Sexual assault survivors deserve justice and my office will help them get it.

My office’s statewide inventory identified 6,460 untested sexual assault kits.

While law enforcement alone can submit these kits for testing, my office designated $1.5 million to help fund this testing. Additional dollars will go to training law enforcement and providing investigative assistance on unsolved cold cases once these kits lead to DNA “hits.”

Sexual assault is a devastating crime that affects thousands of Washingtonians. With the help of law enforcement across the state, I hope to bring closure to those who have suffered as victims of sexual assault crimes. 

You can track our project progress on our website here.

More information on available resources, case studies and other materials can be found on the SAKI website at www.sakitta.org.

The Seattle Times
Raped and forgotten – why we must end the backlog of sexual-assault kits

Bills in legislature coming down to the wire as cutoff nears


Tobacco smoke.

Keeping tobacco and vaping products out of classrooms

My proposed legislation that raises the age of sale for tobacco and vapor products in Washington state from 18 to 21 years of age passed the Washington state House this month with overwhelming bipartisan support. The House passed the bill by a vote of 66-30. This bill will save more lives than any other bill in legislature this year. Thank you to Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, for his support on this important legislation, as well as the Washington State Department of Health for partnering with me on this important legislation.

More than 95 percent of addicted smokers begin smoking before the age of 21. 

In nothing changes, smoking will shorten the lives of 104,000 kids alive in Washington state today. Raising the smoking age to 21 will keep tobacco and vaping out of classrooms, saving thousands of Washingtonians from a lifetime of nicotine addiction. 

California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oregon, and along with over 400 municipalities nationwide, have raised the tobacco and vapor product sale age to 21. 

I strongly urge legislators to think about those kids, and their parents and pass this common-sense policy. By increasing the legal age to purchase tobacco, we will dramatically reduce health care costs and save lives.  

KIRO7 News
Bill to raise tobacco sales age to 21 passes Washington House

Chinook Observer
House passes bill to raise age limit for tobacco

My Northwest
Washington bill raising tobacco sales age to 21 passes in House


Attorney General Bob Ferguson at Senior Lobby Day.

Working across Washington

As a former Jesuit Volunteer, I was delighted to speak at the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) in Spokane this February. JVC was one of the most transformative experiences I’ve had. It impacts my work as Attorney General and I enjoyed reflecting on my experiences during the year I spent with the JVC in Portland, Oregon.

I discussed maintaining and improving school safety for the children in our state with educators at a breakfast organized by the Washington Education Association (WEA). We must do more to make children and educators safe. This will require curbing access to military-style weapons and hiring more mental health professionals in our schools. As the son of a special education teacher, I know that nobody knows better how to improve our schools than those that work in them every day.

I spoke at the 2019 Senior Lobby Day on legislation concerning senior citizens and the work my office is doing to combat financial fraud and elder abuse.

I joined South King County community leaders during their “Good Eggs” event.

Finally, I addressed the students and faculty at Gonzaga Law School and recorded a podcast interview on current issues and the importance of legislation. 

I thank all these groups for inviting me to discuss issues important to them. I was honored to accept each invitation.

The Spokesman-Review – 
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson talks smoking age, marijuana, guns and Donald Trump in podcast



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