It’s less than two weeks until the full impact of Initiative 1639 is felt in Washington State, as explained on the state Attorney General’s website, and for the more than 615,000 citizens with concealed pistol licenses, they will no longer be able to take delivery of handguns on the day of purchase.
There has been a change in policy regarding the FBI’s National Instant Check System, according to a bulletin from the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs. Beginning July 1, all handgun background checks will be the responsibility of local law enforcement. Even with a CPL, handgun buyers will now have to endure the waiting period.
“Based on 2018 totals of NICS background checks,” the bulletin notes, “state LLE (local law enforcement) may be responsible for between 75,000 and 120,000 SAR (semi-automatic Assault Rifle) background checks annually…”
Only non-SAR long guns will still go through the actual NICS system background checks, allowing for same-day delivery. It may come as a surprise to some people that they will be under additional scrutiny for buying many popular semi-auto .22-caliber rifles.
Beginning July 1, in order for anyone over age 21 to purchase a so-called “semiautomatic assault rifle” – the definition of which found on page 27 of Initiative 1639 covers every semi-auto rifle of any caliber ever manufactured – the buyer will have to provide proof of safety training within the past five years, and go through an “enhanced background check” and wait ten days.
“Semiautomatic assault rifle” means any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”—Language in I-1639
Under I-1639, the state Department of Licensing, in coordination with the Washington State Patrol and local law enforcement must “develop a process to verify owners of pistols and semiautomatic assault rifles remain eligible to possess a firearm under state and federal law” by or before July 1, 2020.
Liberty Park Press reached out to the FBI, which is responsible for the NICS system, to find out why NICS is no longer assisting the state in processing background checks for handgun purchases, but there was no immediate response.
The state “may” establish its own single point-of-contact (POC) for background checks, but there was no mandate in I-1639 to do that. Instead, the Legislature passed a bill that calls for a feasibility study to “examine and make recommendations” on the establishment of a single POC background check system at the state level. That study is due Dec. 1, but in the meantime, handgun buyers who have CPLs will be stymied by the waiting period even though they have never before been inconvenienced in such a way.
To obtain a CPL requires a background check. It’s not clear why anyone with a CPL will now be required to jump through the additional bureaucratic hoop, but there appears to be no current mechanism at the state level that allows for that important red tape bypass.
Meanwhile, a recent report from a Yakima news agency suggests there is a buying scramble in progress, at least in some areas, to beat the deadline.