Gun dealers in Washington state will soon be required to report when someone tries to buy a gun and fails a background check. Gov. Jay Inslee signed that requirement into law Wednesday as part of a crackdown on prohibited gun buyers.
Domestic violence survivors and their supporters crowded around Inslee at the bill signing ceremony.
House Bill 1501 requires gun dealers to notify the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs within five days of a failed gun purchase. That information will then get transmitted to police officers in the field and victims with protection orders who sign up for alerts.
“It’s very important to protect victims of domestic violence,” Inslee said.
The new law will also allow police agencies to apply for grants to investigate failed gun buyers with an eye toward prosecuting them.
It’s a violation of state and federal law to lie on the background check form. But our months-long investigation with KING 5 news revealed that police in Washington rarely, if ever, follow up on denied gun purchases. The new law aims to change that.
Democrat Drew Hansen, the prime sponsor of the measure, said the new law addresses a gap in existing gun laws.
“Never before in this state has there been a requirement that when some knucklehead goes to try to buy a firearm and knows he shouldn’t have a firearm, that there’s some follow up on that,” Hansen said. “We want there to be follow up on that. We want there to be criminal consequences if you knowingly illegally try to purchase a firearm.”
After the bill signing, domestic violence survivors Paula Harwood and Courtney Weaver embraced.
Late last year, Harwood learned from a reporter that the man she has a permanent protection order against tried to buy a gun from a Pierce County firearms dealer.
“To me, that’s a matter of life and death,” Harwood said.
In 2010, Weaver was shot in the face by her then-boyfriend in California. She lives in fear of the day he gets out of prison in 2019 and said she wants to know if he ever tries to buy a gun.
“It would be the surest sign, be the surest way to predict what he was going to do next,” Weaver said.
Would-be gun buyers fail a background check in Washington state about 4,000 times a year. In 2015, more than half of those denied buyers had been convicted of a crime or had a restraining order against them.