Washington State House Democrats


Measure to rein in illegal gun purchases on its way to governor’s desk

OLYMPIA – Under current law, there are no consequences when a person who is ineligible to own a firearm tries to buy one but fails the background check. Rep. Drew Hansen’s (D-Bainbridge Island) bill, on its way to the Governor’s desk after being passed in both the House and Senate, would alert law enforcement and domestic violence survivors when criminals illegally attempt to purchase firearms and provide information to law enforcement to help them crack down on illegal gun purchases.

Around half of all failed background checks last year were a result of the prospective purchaser being a criminal or fugitive. Even though it is a crime for people who know they are ineligible to purchase firearms to attempt to buy one, there is currently no widespread investigation or prosecution of these crimes, nor is there any notification to law enforcement or survivors. This bill attempts to enhance public safety by addressing these discrepancies.

“We have strong bipartisan support in this state for cracking down on illegal firearm purchases and making sure law enforcement and domestic violence survivors have the information they need to protect themselves,” Hansen said.

The measure:

  • Requires dealers to notify law enforcement when the dealer denies an application for a firearm because the person fails the background check.
  • Requires law enforcement to make this information available to officers in the field to protect public safety.
  • Requires law enforcement to notify domestic violence survivors when an abuser with a protective order prohibiting firearms possession attempts to buy a firearm.

During committee testimony Ken Balazs, testifying on behalf of the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs said the measure would improve officer safety by adding an “extra piece of information for officers to consider when stopping potentially dangerous persons.”

Courtney Weaver, a domestic violence survivor, testified: “Having the victim notification component will help me safety plan, so that I know when he [her abuser] attempts to buy a firearm and I can protect my loved ones and coordinate with local law enforcement.”

After last night’s unanimous Senate vote and today’s House vote, the bill heads to Governor Inslee for signature.