A law that requires a background check on every gun sale in the state of Washington went into effect on Friday. And if it weren’t for the media coverage, almost no one would have noticed. That’s because the new law created by Initiative 594 will have zero impact on the overwhelming majority of people who treat gun ownership responsibly.
After 18 months of debate about the details of the initiative, the obfuscation and fear-mongering from the National Rifle Association and its most strident supporters were finally debunked. More than 59 percent of voters statewide approved the measure.
But that clarity of public sentiment won’t stop gun-rights advocates from staging a protest on the Capitol steps this Friday or deter the NRA from a pledge to spend millions on lobbying efforts to seek “legislative remedies to the most onerous provisions” of the initiative.
To which we would ask, “What onerous provisions?” There simply aren’t any.
Initiative 594 does not create a statewide gun registry. It makes no change to existing hunting laws. It doesn’t prohibit someone from handing a firearm to another person, at a training range or when target shooting on your property. It makes no onerous requirement on people who inherit guns.
In no way does I-594 diminish the Second Amendment.
Don’t take our word for it. Listen to Mitch Barker, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. He said, “If somebody committed a crime with a firearm, and if the source was tracked back to someone who didn’t do a background check of the person who they transferred the gun to, that to me would seem to be the most likely scenario where a law enforcement official would take action.”
Or, listen to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. He said, “Responsible gun owners aren’t going to see a difference.”
Small, special-interest groups often stage protest demonstrations on the Capitol Campus. It’s their right in a free society.
The NRA also has a right to lobby state lawmakers for any reason, including changes to an initiative supported by a large majority of Washington voters. But they will need to convince at least two-thirds of both the House and the Senate to amend the new law, and that’s not even a remote possibility.
The Legislature has a heavy load to carry in 2015. It’ll be a miracle of compromise and uncommon bipartisanship if lawmakers finish their work without at least one special session.
For that reason, legislators should not waste time revisiting an issue already settled by voters that does not have any significant bearing on our state’s difficult financial issues.