The Bellingham Herald is reporting that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told a group of gun prohibitionists Thursday that there is a “loophole” in state law that doesn’t require background checks for assault weapons.
During a public hearing on House Bill 1387 later in the day before the House Judiciary Committee, Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe posed this question: “Should someone be able to walk into a sporting goods store and with no questions asked, walk out with a high velocity, high capacity weapon and a whole bunch of bullets?” The bill would require so-called “enhanced” background checks, training, licensing and a minimum age of 21 years to buy a so-called “assault rifle.”
There’s just one problem with such rhetoric. Under existing state and federal law, nobody can “just walk into a sporting goods store” and walk out again with any firearm with “no questions asked.” Federally-licensed firearms dealers are required by law to conduct background checks prior to any firearms transfer. Background checks require filling out a federal Form 4473, which asks a lot of questions, and the retailer handling the background check then contacts the National Instant Check System (NICS) to complete the check. Lying on this form is a federal felony.
Roe was alluding to last year’s fatal shooting of three teens at a party in Mukilteo by Allen Ivanov, who has since pleaded guilty and will spend his life behind bars. The Everett Herald reported on Aug. 9, 2016 that Ivanov’s mother told investigators that her son bought a semi-auto rifle at the Cabela’s store in Tulalip a few days before his attack, which was confirmed by investigators in court documents. He would have had to pass a background check for that sale to be completed. Under federal law, citizens age 18 and older can purchase rifles and shotguns. To buy a handgun, one must be 21.
In November 2014, voters passed Initiative 594, which requires background checks for every firearms transfer; not just sales, but loans of firearms between friends or acquaintances, with very few exceptions for family members. If there is a “loophole” in there somewhere, the blame lies with the authors and sponsors of the initiative; the same anti-gunners now pushing for yet another gun control measure that, according to critics, simply erodes their firearm civil rights even more, and won’t accomplish anything.
The Seattle Times quoted the legislation’s sponsor, state Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), who stated, “We have a lot of data now with mass shootings that assault weapons hurt and kill a lot more people and do it a lot faster. We’re trying to make sure that these kinds of weapons stay out of the hands of dangerous people.”
But that does not appear to be accurate, either, as noted by this column yesterday. According to FBI Uniform Crime Reports for 2013, 2014 and 2015, rifles of any kind are used in a fraction of homicides annually, both nationally and in Washington State.
In the midst of all of this, it appears there was a veiled threat by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility (AGR) against lawmakers who oppose their anti-gun agenda. AGR is the Seattle-based, billionaire-backed group that sponsored I-594.
Quoted by the Spokane Spokesman-Review, AGR head Renee Hopkins intimated that lawmakers who side with the state’s gun owners, estimated to number roughly 1.5-2 million, could face tough going in the next election.
“This is an issue that could cost them their seat,” Hopkins reportedly said.
At Thursday’s hearing, not much was said that hasn’t already been said in the gun control debate. Supporters of the stricter gun bills shared sad stories of personal tragedies. Opponents, including retired Pierce County Sheriff’s Detective Bill Burris and Phil Shave, executive director of the Washington Arms Collectors, argued that the legislation is deceptive and unnecessary, and that the vast majority of gun owners are responsible citizens who do not need the state micro-managing their behavior.