Washington voters will be presented with two firearms initiatives in November’s general election. Initiative 591 reaffirms existing federal background checks. Initiative 594 is being sold as “universal background checks” for purchasing firearms. It is that, but it’s much more. Eighteen pages of red tape criminalizes such ordinary activities as loaning your hunting rifle to a friend or relative – unless you visit a gun dealer, pay $50, and fill out the same paperwork now used to purchase the gun in the first place. Returning the borrowed rifle will require another trip through the same paperwork in reverse.
Even without I-594, gun dealers must have federal firearms licenses and are already required to run background checks on all prospective gun purchasers, whether in their stores or at gun shows.
A year ago Colorado voters were told the same thing that Washington voters are being told now, that upwards of 40 percent of gun purchases were outside the federal background check system. But a year of actual experience in Colorado has increased online background checks less than 6.5 percent instead of 40. Conclusion: fewer private sales than gun-control proponents claimed.
I believe I-594 is just another attack on firearms commerce and ownership. What I-594’s proponents really want is to hogtie gun owners in red tape, with felony penalties for mistakes.