The Olympia City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to endorse Initiative 594, a statewide ballot measure that would require criminal background checks for private gun sales.
The measure goes before voters Nov. 4. If approved, the initiative would require background checks for sales and transfers of firearms arranged by private sellers online and at gun shows, for example.
"This won’t fix all of our problems," said Councilman Jim Cooper, who urged those in attendance to vote in the upcoming election. "This initiative will make our community and state safer. It’s one monumental step, but we still have work to do."
At Tuesday’s council meeting, more than a dozen people from both sides of the issue offered public testimony on why the council should – or should not – support the initiative.
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"It would criminalize me for being a responsible gun owner," Olympia resident Dan Solie said. "I-594 is not just about background checks. If it were, it wouldn’t need 18 pages of new rules and regulations."
Olympia resident Penny Purkerson told the council that I-594 will close dangerous loopholes while keeping Second Amendment rights in place.
"It is a sensible solution for keeping guns out of the hands of criminals," she said. "We must try to make things better in every way we can."
According to the resolution, "the Olympia City Council supports legislation that seeks to keep firearms out of the hands of those prohibited from owning or possessing firearms."
The city reports that I-594, if approved by voters, would require a small amount of extra staff work at an estimated annual cost of $1,700 to $3,400, according to a staff report.
The Olympia Police Department is specifically affected by the gun transfers required by the initiative, said police spokeswoman Laura Wohl. The department averages about 60 transfer applications a month. If the initiative passes, the department expects an increase of 12 to 24 applications a month, Wohl said.