Opinion

I-594 background checks on all gun sales would lessen gun violence | Island Forum

By Cornelia Swenson, ‘Moms Demand Action’

Initiative 594, the Criminal Background Checks Initiative is simple. It makes sure everyone in Washington State passes the same background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from.

Criminal and public safety background checks dramatically reduce access to guns for criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous people from buying firearms. Federal law only requires background checks for gun sales at licensed dealers.

In the U.S., an estimated 40 percent of gun transfers take place without going through a licensed dealer, including online sales and at gun shows. That means that in 2012, 6.6 million guns were sold with no background check for the buyer.

Criminals and other prohibited gun buyers know how to exploit this loophole, and they do. A national survey of inmates found that nearly 80 percent of those who used a handgun in a crime acquired it in a private transfer.

The Criminal Background Checks Initiative closes this loophole in Washington State by requiring that private sales and transfers—including those at gun shows or sales via the internet— go through the same background check process as sales through a licensed gun dealer.

It is a simple and accessible process:

• The initiative makes sure everyone in Washington State passes the same background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from.

• When a private seller and buyer arrange to meet in person to conduct the transfer, they would meet at a licensed dealer, instead of in a parking lot or another public place.

• The buyer and the licensed dealer would proceed as if the buyer were trying to purchase from a dealer. The buyer would complete the proper forms, and the dealer would call in the background check — in the exact same way as if the dealer were selling a firearm from its own inventory.

• This initiative simply has private sales go through the same process people have been using  successfully for years when purchasing from a licensed dealer.

• This is an accessible process. 98 percent of Washingtonians live within 10 miles of a dealer. In fact, there are twice as may licensed gun dealers in Washington as there are United States post offices.

• Private parties who comply are exempt from sales tax.

There are reasonable exceptions:

Background checks are not required for:

• Gifts between immediate family members

• Antiques and relics

• Loans for lawful hunting or sporting activities

Finally, eight out of 10 Washington voters support criminal background checks for all gun sales.

Initiative 591 would limit new restrictions

A coalition of gun-rights groups have filed an alternative to stricter controls on guns with Initiative 591, which would prevent Washington state from adopting background-check laws more restrictive than the federal standard.

For information, go to wagunresponsibility.org.

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