Before I-594, Washington residents could purchase guns from private sellers without having to go through a background check, as is the case with licensed gun dealers
The Center Square Washington
Since voters adopted Initiative 594, or I-594, in 2014 regarding background checks for firearm sales and transfers, only one person in the state’s three largest counties has been charged and convicted of violating the law, and no one at the state level has been charged or convicted.
Before I-594, Washington residents could purchase guns from private sellers without having to go through a background check, as is the case with licensed gun dealers. The initiative applied the same standard to private sales, so all firearms sold and purchased must be done through a federally-licensed firearms dealer. Exemptions are made for law enforcement, inherited firearms, and temporary “transfers,” such as while hunting or at a gun range.
The initiative makes it a gross misdemeanor for a first offense for either selling or purchasing a firearm without a background check and a class C felony for each subsequent offense. Gross misdemeanors are prosecuted either in municipal court or county district court.
According to public records requests made by The Center Square to the prosecuting offices for Washington state and King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties, only a single person in King County was charged. The King County Prosecutor’s Office charged Gavin S. Rushing in April 2017 of two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree and failure to comply with an order to surrender firearms due to a court order.
However, the charges were amended in February 2018 to include a violation of I-594 for trying to buy or sell a Ruger 44 handgun and a Savage Arms rifle to a non-licensed individual.
The unlawful possession charges were dismissed, but Rushing pled guilty to other charges, including violating I-594.
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which compiles annual crime reports, does not specifically track violations of I-594. The Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys did not respond to request for comment on city attorneys’ prosecution of I-594 violations.
This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.
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