A new draft bill in the state of Washington reopened the nationwide debate on whether or not a firearm background check should take place. The bill in question will be voted on in the coming ballot. If it passes, Washington may hold some of the country’s strictest policies on background checks for gun sales. Initiative 594, or i-594 as it is called, sparked discussions and controversy: its opponents say it’s unconstitutional while its supporters feel relieved at the prospect of closing a potentially dangerous legal loophole. In the following, we explore this law proposal, its impact on Washington gun sales, as well as its moral implications. Are i-594 and the New Washington Gun Control Laws Unconstitutional?
Initiative 594 stands as a very high profile bill to amend the current federal laws being enforced in the state of Washington regarding background checks on firearm purchasers. Current legislation states that only the firearm sellers with a license are required to run such checks. If i-594 passes, the state will require such a verification across the board in all locations/events where guns are sold. This includes private sales and transfers such as the ones that currently happen at firearm shows.
Naturally, gun control advocates support initiative 594. The former side of the debate includes numerous affluent figures from all across the United States. Bill Gates Jr., Paul Allen, Steve Ballmer, and Nick Hanauer all donate to the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. Most notably, the former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, donated $1 million to this organization which lobbied in favor of i-594. Bloomberg donated through his own gun control advocacy group, Everytown for Gun Safety. Mark Roe, the prosecutor of Snohomish County, also backs the initiative. Roe stated that he would feel relieved to know people who have committed crimes under federal law or suffer from mental illness will no longer have access to purchase firearms in the state of Washington.
On the other side of debate stands the NRA and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms from Bellevue, WA. These groups claim i-594 would place too great of a barrier on the people’s rights to own guns. These groups have come up with their own Initiative 591 which says background checks should only be allowed via federal mandates. Opponents of i-594 managed to raise some $1.4 million in support of this cause. Some experts believe expect that, if the initiative is passed in the November polls, some gun ownership will become criminalized by the law.
A Violation of the 2nd Amendment or Greater Safety from Gun Crimes?
The government will vote on i-594 this coming November. If the initiative is passed, Washington will rank among the states in the U.S. with the strictest laws on firearm purchases. As of the time this article was written, some 2 million people in the United States were denied the right to purchase a firearm following a background check. 30 to 40 of people fail the check each year because they have an involuntary mental health commitment in their history. The Washington Department of Social and Health service performs about 200,000 background checks each year. The causes for denial include involuntary commitment to a mental health or rehab institution, being a fugitive from the law, illegal drug usage, dishonorable discharges from the military, unlawful residence in the United States, and felony/domestic violence misdemeanor convictions. A background check can take up to two weeks. If you want to purchase a handgun, you also must be checked by the local authorities. If your claim is denied, you must contact the FBI to find out the reason.
Massachusetts stands among the states that already enforce such legislation. In that state, people seeking to purchase firearms from private sellers are redirected to a licensed seller for a background check prior to making the purchase. Some say private sellers are already seeking checks with licensed ones. Opponents of i-594 say this law would help the government create a database of gun owners which would allow it to seize weapons without just cause. We here at Gun Smith generally stand in the camp of gun rights for private citizens. But, we have to concede approval for better background checks. One could argue that quality background checks shouldn’t even be considered gun control in the first place as they target people with criminal records or people who suffer from mental illness. Although gun sales in Washington might dwindle a little should the initiative pass, i-594 is probably a good idea. We agree with enforcing mandatory background checks on all sales. However, the government must ensure the law is clearly worded and transparent for all would be gun owners. By doing so, they can avoid suspicions of unfair taxation and gun confiscation.
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