Dueling gun laws on Nov. ballot | Valleyites weigh in

Two statewide gun measures will be decided in the Nov. 4 election, Initiative 591 and 594. Supporters of the conflicting initiatives claim they are about gun rights and public safety, respectively, but neither issue is as simple as it sounds. Initiative 591, supported by Protect Our Gun Rights (wagunrights.org), prohibits government agencies, including police, from confiscating citizens’ handguns and long guns, without due process, and does not allow the state to implement a background check policy of its own, but to adhere to the federal standard only. The federal standard calls for background checks on all gun sales made at federally licensed retailers.

Two statewide gun measures will be decided in the Nov. 4 election, Initiative 591 and 594. Supporters of the conflicting initiatives claim they are about gun rights and public safety, respectively, but neither issue is as simple as it sounds.

Initiative 591, supported by Protect Our Gun Rights (wagunrights.org), prohibits government agencies, including police, from confiscating citizens’ handguns and long guns, without due process, and does not allow the state to implement a background check policy of its own, but to adhere to the federal standard only. The federal standard calls for background checks on all gun sales made at federally licensed retailers.

In direct contrast, Initiative 594, supported by the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (wagunresponsibility.org), calls for more restrictions on gun sales and transfers. The measure would require background checks for nearly all gun sales, including those made at gun shows, online, or between private parties. With the exceptions of antique sales, gifts, temporary loans to prevent harm from an imminent threat and a few other situations,  a federally-licensed retailer must oversee every sale or transfer of a firearm, and conduct a background check on the individual receiving the weapon.

One such retailer, Mike Marinos, owner of Big Dogg Firearms in North Bend, charges a $40 fee for these services, but he’s still opposed to 594.

“It’s the registration,” he said, “It’s somebody knowing what you’ve got. It’s none of their business.”

In effect, Initiative 594 would create a registry of gun owners, he and other opponents say, through the information gathered in the required background checks.

That said, “Background checks are a definite necessity.”

In the year-plus since Marinos opened shop in North Bend, he estimated he’s sold about 500 guns, and done at least that many  background checks. A background check result caused a sale to be cancelled only three times, which is “not bad,” he says.

“(Initiative) 591 is not against background checks. Gun stores are not against background checks. What we’re against is the database and the (restrictions on) transfers.”

On the other hand, I-591 sets the federal law as the requirement for the state, which “doesn’t even begin to go to the mark,” on gun safety, says Jim Gildersleeve, hunter and treasurer for the Snoqualmie Valley Elk Management Group. Congress has been unable to make meaningful changes to the current federal gun law for nearly a decade, although Gildersleeve feels that “the vast majority of Americans want more gun control…. I want to see additional gun control that keeps weapons out of the hands of people who, for whatever reason, shouldn’t have them…. and we know that the federal minimums have not stopped the scourge” of violent crimes committed with firearms.

He felt that neither measure would have much of an effect on the elk group, which relies on master hunters to harvest a few dozen elk each year, to maintain a healthy population level. But as far short as I-591 falls in gun safety, I-594 overreaches at least as much in restricting gun rights.

In the 18 pages of proposed code revisions, that make up I-594, Gildersleeve found several concerning additions. These include a requirement that gunsmiths hold federal licenses in order to receive a weapon in order to make repairs, a 60-day deadline for transferring a dead gun owner’s firearms to his or her heirs, and a requirement for a seller to hold up delivery of a pistol if a buyer has any outstanding felony or misdemeanor warrants.

Under current federal law, anyone convicted of a felony in the U.S. cannot legally own a gun, but there is no restriction on misdemeanor convictions.

Gildersleeve said he’s read both initiative proposals, and recommends other people do the same before voting.

Also, “I’m hopeful that both of these will pass, and some of the differences will have to be resolved in the legislature,” he says. “I’m just hoping we can get a better … law if the legislature takes it up.”

The Snoqualmie Police Department was asked to comment for this story, but declined.

For information on both initiatives, visit https://wei.sos.wa.gov/agency/osos/en/press_and_research/PreviousElections/2014/General-Election/Pages/Online-Voters-Guide.aspx.

What exactly goes into a background check?

A licensed firearms retailer has the would-be buyer fill out a form, answering questions about the individual’s history, including arrests, felony convictions, citizenship, military service, illegal drug use, domestic violence incidents and mental health. The retailer submits the form to the local law enforcement agency, which, as specified in the current state law, searches  the “national crime information center, the Washington State Patrol electronic database, the department of social and health services electronic database, and with other agencies or resources as appropriate, to determine whether the applicant is ineligible under RCW 9.41.040 to possess a firearm.”

It typically takes less than five days, and is often much less for buyers who are already licensed (and have completed the background check) to carry concealed pistols.

 

 

 

 


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