Washington State: Initiative 594 is Working

Since Initiative 594 took effect, the law has already helped prevent dangerous individuals from obtaining firearms.

For firearms owners, implementation has proceeded smoothly as gun shows, vendors, and owners are all easily adapting to background checks on all sales. Gun stores and shows throughout Washington – including organizations that fought tooth and nail to defeat Initiative 594 – have seamlessly integrated the requirement for background checks on all sales.

  • Washington Arms Collectors – which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to oppose closing the background check loophole – announced in December that it will offer background checks on private sales for $10: “The Washington Arms Collectors announces $10 private party firearm transfers beginning at the Monroe show on December 6, 7.  In an effort to provide the lowest cost and most accessible private transfers through a Federally Licensed Firearm dealer (FFL), as required by Initiative 594, the WAC has made arrangements that will allow WAC members to buy and sell firearms for this nominal fee at all future events.”
  • The Olympian reported in November 2014 that “hundreds” of private sale background checks were conducted “very smoothly” at the Wes Knodel Gun Show , which closed the background check loophole immediately after Initiative 594 passed: “That said, Knodel said the private background checks he paid for went very smoothly on 55 buyers. That is because the federally licensed dealer he hired received approval from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to streamline the process. The result was that the checks they carried out on private-party sales were done quickly, averaging “less than 15 minutes” to complete. Other federal firearm licensees who attended and sold guns did a few hundred other checks on their buyers, Knodel said.”
  • Thanh Tan of the Seattle Times reported on how dealers were effectively implementing Initiative 594 at gun shows: “My friend, who has been to these swap meets many times before, encouraged me to take one last look around. I saw law-abiding people, some of whom probably feel unfairly targeted by the provisions in I-594. They shouldn’t. The new law will hopefully prevent sellers from inadvertently selling arms to people with bad intentions. And though some gun enthusiasts might be annoyed at the prospect of having to go through a background check and maybe waiting a few extra days to be cleared, state law does not prohibit responsible owners from purchasing weapons in Washington state.”
  • As KHQ reported, an Idaho auction house taking bids on over 1,000 guns made simple arrangements for Washington gun owners making purchases across the border.
  • And as KLEW reported, gun dealers and sellers at gun shows in eastern Washington have made clear that 594 doesn’t present a significant hurdle to them or to responsible gun owners: “As far as the sales go, it’s naturally going to have the hype of, ‘oh my goodness, oh my goodness, I don’t want to go to jail if I do something wrong],’ said [federally licensed firearm dealer Sid] Ulery. “But, in all reality, it’s doing exactly what the dealer already had to do, and already set up and doing at this stage of the game anyway.”

The bottom line is clear: Washingtonians are complying with the law and finding background checks on all gun sales to be working smoothly.

In Washington State, over 40,000 advertisements for firearms are posted online annually. Before Initiative 594 was passed, each and every one of those guns could be bought without a background check – and one in ten of the people responding to them were prohibited from owning firearms.

Gun ads posted since the enactment of Initiative 594 show a dramatic change as online sellers establish the requirement that private purchasers go through a background check before obtaining a firearm. This change in behavior is a tremendous sign of the impact that closing the background check loophole has had in Washington State. Check out examples of gun ads demonstrating this trend!

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