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Strict Anti-Gun Initiative Passes in Washington State: Here’s What it Does

Washington voters are, positive that, criminals will obey this law--unlike all the other ones.

As news of election results comes in, we may be tempted to hear only the biggest stories and unplug, given the vast over-saturation of this election cycle. But there are smaller races, initiatives, and propositions around the country worth taking note of. Washington’s Initiative 1639 (I-1639) is one of them.

In the wake of mass shootings in Florida and Nevada, wealthy donors, including Paul Allen, dumped millions into this initiative. Here’s the cliff notes version of what this initiative, which passed by a wide margin, will do.

  • Requires mandatory “safe storage” for firearms and holds gun owners criminally liable if a “prohibited person” obtains their weapon unless they can prove it was locked up. Failure to do so could result in a misdemeanor—or a Class C Felony, thus forfeiting your gun rights forever.
  • You must waive your medical privacy by signing a document which would allow the Department of Licensing or a police agency to look at your medical records to determine whether you’re qualified to own a “semi-automatic assault rifle.”
  • Gives authority to the State to create a new, “more comprehensive” background check system in the future
  • Re-defines “semi-automatic assalt rifle” (“SAR”) to include many common hunting and competition rifles
  • Directs law enforcement and the DOL to develop a process to “verify, on an annual or more frequent basis,” that both handgun and “SAR” owners continue to be eligible to possess any firearm under state and federal law. It authorizes law enforcement to “take steps to ensure” that anyone who fails the verification process no longer possesses guns.
  • Bans 18-20 year-olds from purchasing “SAR”s
  • Imposes a 10 day waiting period prior to purchase as well as proof of firearms training compliant with I-1639’s new regulations
  • A new $25 tax (which can go up at any time) to “offset the administrative costs” of implementing the initiative

What could go wrong?

Amazingly, this initiative was initially barred from the ballot by Thurston County Superior Court, citing it did not comply with state law requiring that signature sheets include a true and accurate representation of the initiative as filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, but the state Supreme Court overturned the ruling. Doubtless this initiative will be challenged in court.

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