Voters will have to decide between two clashing gun initiatives on the November ballot. Initiative 594 would add another hurdle to buying guns in this state, while initiative 591 would limit government interference in these same gun sales.
We are all for reducing gun violence, but there is no guarantee that’s what will be accomplished if I-594 is approved.
What is certain, however, is that private citizens will be burdened by an unenforceable law.
On the other end of the gun barrel is I-591, which is in direct conflict with I-594 and would loosen background check requirements.
This is a regressive move against an established system that works well. There is no need to weaken it.
So we oppose both I-594 and I-591.
We believe keeping the status quo for now is better than making changes that likely will pose detrimental consequences later.
Currently, it is only licensed gun retailers who are required to run background checks on potential buyers. Private party purchases and guns bought online or at gun shows are the loophole that allows someone who would be denied a gun at a shop to easily buy one anyway.
I-594 attempts to close that gap by requiring private sellers to obtain a background check on a gun buyer.
It sounds reasonable and we like the idea of making it tougher for criminals to buy a gun.
The problem is I-594 doesn’t stop there. The proposal also requires people to get background checks before loaning or giving guns away as gifts. There are exemptions for gifts within family members, temporary transfers between spouses and the sale of antique firearms, but good friends and hunting buddies don’t count.
This is where I-594 goes astray.
In other states where extended background checks have been implemented, the denial rate has been minimal.
California has the most restrictive gun laws in the country and it reports that only 1 percent of background checks lead to denials. Colorado just passed an extended background check law in 2013 and six months later the consensus is that it is unenforceable.
No one believes I-594 will stop a criminal intent on obtaining a gun from getting one. It also won’t stop every mentally unstable person from a shooting rampage.
That is one of the reasons the Washington Council of Police oppose I-594. Their leadership says it would add more work for law enforcement agencies and criminals will still get guns on the black market.
Nobody likes the idea of criminals getting guns through their computer. However, I-594 is not the answer.
If it was limited to only gun purchases, it would be more palatable. Proponents of I-594 say the opposition’s focus on transfer issues is misleading. But people shouldn’t have to worry about letting their neighbor borrow a gun to go hunting.
As for I-591, it is completely unnecessary and goes too far the other way.
These initiatives cancel each other out, so if both are approved, the courts likely would have to determine which law stands.
So voters need to choose between one or the other or oppose both.
We choose the latter option. We like the idea of closing the loophole in the background check system, but I-594 is not the way to do it. I-591 is just plain wrong.