It’s always a good day when gun sense prevails in Olympia.
Thanks to the passage of House Bill 1501, police and victims will now get notification if a felon, fugitive or someone who’s the subject of a court protection order illegally attempts to buy a firearm.
There’s little doubt this upgraded notification system will save lives. Victims of domestic violence in particular can breathe a sigh of relief.
The bill was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee last week. Starting in July, gun dealers will have to notify the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs within five days of a failed background check. Law enforcement would then notify domestic violence survivors.
According to the FBI, there were more than 3,000 unlawful attempts to purchase a gun in Washington last year alone, more than half by potential buyers who had criminal convictions or court orders filed against them.
Women are more than three times as likely to be killed by an intimate partner as men. The new law will give women who have been harassed, stalked, threatened or terrorized advance warning that a perpetrator attempted to buy a gun; this will allow them to prepare a safety plan.
The law is an essential sequel to Initiative 594, the last significant gun-safety measure approved in Washington. Since voters passed I-594 in 2014, state law has required a background check on any sale or transfer of a firearm, including private ones. But there was no follow-up if a buyer was denied purchase, and there was no database of failed attempts. Dangerous individuals were free to find a weapon through other channels.
Reps. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, and Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, led a bipartisan endeavor this year to close that gap. In a Capitol building not not always known for consensus, their bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate with unanimous support.
Opinions may differ as to the scope of Second Amendment rights, but the need for this legislation was incontrovertible. Not even the National Rifle Association, which raised nearly a half million dollars to fight I-594, could muster much objection this time.
During a House Judiciary Committee in February, an NRA spokesman cited concerns about the accuracy of the background process, noting a 5 percent error rate. But his worries were no match for the enthusiasm displayed by law enforcement who spoke on behalf of HB1501.
As Lewis County Sheriff Robert Snaza testified, the new state funds will enable officers to investigate people who’ve tried to cheat the gun-purchase system. The electronic database also lets frontline cops know if a driver they just pulled over recently tried and failed to purchase a gun.
But the clincher came when a survivor of domestic abuse, Courtney Weaver of Seattle, told her story. She was shot in the arm and face by an abusive boyfriend seven years ago, and has endured 14 reconstructive surgeries since.
Weaver will now receive an alert from law enforcement if her ex, who’s scheduled to be released from prison in two years, tries to buy a gun. Like thousands of victims across Washington, she has one more level of security that didn’t exist before.
Our Legislature and governor just made it tougher for felons and fugitives to seek shelter in the shadows.