State AG Bob Ferguson adds Mukilteo Rotary Club to his list

Gun control, opioids, and Trump discussed in depth
By Brandon Gustafson | May 01, 2019
Photo by: Brandon Gustafson Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson answers a question about gun control at the South Everett-Mukilteo Rotary Club’s meeting Friday, April 26.

Prior to last Friday, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson had visited 142 rotary clubs in the state. After speaking at the South Everett-Mukilteo Rotary Club’s (SEMR) Friday meeting, Ferguson has spoken at 143.

Ferguson said after he was first elected, he was invited to a Rotary Club meeting, and since then has a goal of trying to speak at each Rotary in Washington.

“One thing I’ve discovered is Rotarians are in many respects in the same business that people in my office are in,” he said. “I’ve discovered every Rotary Club is focused on helping students in their community, helping with projects in their community, or helping with scholarships, the homeless, or whatever the issue may be.”

Ferguson was the guest of honor at the SEMR meeting, and spoke about what his office does, gun control, the opioid epidemic, and his office’s success rate against the Trump Administration.

 

Background

Ferguson is Washington’s 18th attorney general, first elected to the position in 2012 and reelected in 2016. He is a Democrat, and prior to his tenure as attorney general, was a King County councilmember.

Despite being born in, and spending most of his life in King County, Ferguson’s family has roots in Everett.

“My mom and dad went to Everett High School. They graduated there in 1945,” Ferguson said. “The family goes back a lot further than that (in Everett).”

Ferguson’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother moved to Everett around 1900 and started a meat market on the corner of Broadway and Hewitt that members of his family ran for many years.

Now, as attorney general, Ferguson runs the largest law firm in the state. He has more than 1,000 employees at multiple offices, and his office’s job is to enforce state law, even if he or some of his colleagues don’t agree with them.

“It’s a big operation,” Ferguson said. “Think of our work in two buckets: The biggest bucket in terms of people in our office is we represent the state of Washington. We’re the law firm for the state of Washington, which means we represent every state board, commission, agency, the legislature, statewide elected officials.”

The other “bucket,” Ferguson said, is the work that makes headlines, and that’s work on behalf of Washington residents.

“Think areas like civil rights, consumer protection, antitrust, criminal justice, any work we have at the federal level – which has been in the news a lot lately ... in those cases, those are my decisions whether to file a lawsuit.”

 

Opioids

Ferguson’s office has been heavily involved in combating the opioid epidemic that has affected many in the state, Snohomish County, and across the country.

“It has led to some really heartbreaking outcomes for too many people in our state,” Ferguson told the crowd. “Just to give a sense of scale of the problem of opioids in our state, I’ll just give you two numbers to think about. One is that on average in Washington state, two people die of an opioid overdose every day ... number two is the volume of opioids that are prescribed in our state ... there were enough opioids prescribed in (2014) for every man, woman, and child to have, I think, a 28-day supply.”

The second number drew a lot of gasps and shocked looks from the SEMR members.

Due to the high volume of opioids, and the seemingly easy access to obtaining them, Ferguson’s office has taken steps the last few years to combat the issue, such as pushing two major policy changes that have passed the state Legislature.

One of those changes is limiting how many pills one can receive for a prescription. A second is that doctors are now required to check a database before prescribing medication to see when someone was last prescribed, as well as who prescribed it.

“In Washington, we had never required doctors to check that (prescription monitoring program). States that have, have cut down dramatically on opioids going out the door, and helped get treatment for people that have addiction problems, not pain problems,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson also filed litigation against Purdue Pharma, one of the largest opioid manufacturers in the country.

“We filed litigation against them for their misleading marketing, which said their products are not addictive, which they most certainly are,” Ferguson said. “And just recently we filed lawsuits against three distributors of opioids – think of them as the middle man in the whole process. They distribute opioids into communities like Snohomish County.”

 

Gun control

Ferguson was asked about I-1639, approved by voters last year. The gun-control initiative raised the age of purchase for an assault rifle to 21, and increased waiting periods and enhanced background checks. Ferguson said he’d proposed that Legislature pass a bill on the issue, but “couldn’t get a vote on it.”

Ferguson said before this initiative passed, it was easy for an 18-year-old to buy an AR-15, which is what happened with the Mukilteo shooting in 2016.

“There was the shooting in Mukilteo that many here are familiar with. The individual in the shooting walked into a Cabela’s, he was 19, walked out with an AR-15, and read the instructions outside the home, ran inside to the party and a big tragedy happened,” Ferguson said.

Some police departments and sheriff offices have said they are not going to enforce the measure because they don’t agree with it. Ferguson has since sent letters to various departments asking them to follow the will of a majority of Washington voters.

Ferguson said that every law enforcement official has discretion in various cases, but with I-1639, there isn’t room for officer discretion.

“Doing that enhanced background check, that is the law of local law enforcement. That is who must do it. There is no discretion. That’s the job.”

 

Trumping Trump

Ferguson has made media waves both locally and nationally for his opposition to many of President Donald Trump’s administration’s policies. He has filed 35 lawsuits over various issues, and thus far, Ferguson’s office is 21-0 in cases receiving decisions.

“No federal court anywhere in the country has ruled against the state of Washington in any of those cases against the administration,” Ferguson said. “Eleven of those cases are over – as over as last night’s Mariners game. The other 10 are in different stages of litigation. One was literally heard at the U.S. Supreme Court this week, and one we just won yesterday.”

Ferguson said he is shocked his office has had to file as many suits as it has since Trump took office.

“If you had told me two years ago that when Donald Trump was elected president that I would file 35 lawsuits against the administration, I would have laughed at you,” he said. “To me it’s not about the occupant of the White House, but the three questions I ask before filing a lawsuit are pretty straightforward: Are Washingtonians being harmed? Do we have good legal arguments? And can I, as attorney general, bring the lawsuit?”

If the answers to all three questions are “yes,” that’s when Ferguson is interested and moves forward.

Ferguson said that while many other state attorney generals have filed action against the Trump administration over actions regarding border-wall funding, Ferguson said he has not joined them.

“I may have a policy disagreement with what the president did, but the president and his administration has not identified any harm to Washington state at this point,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said because Washington does not share a border with Mexico, and because the president has not identified funds to take money from that would specifically take money away from Washington, he has no grounds to sue, but he and his office are prepared.

“If they grab funds from a Washington state project, we’ll be filing a lawsuit, probably.”

 

 

 

 

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