Rep. Hansen’s bill to protect public from illegal firearm purchases passes the House

OLYMPIA – Half of all failed background checks last year were a result of the prospective purchaser being a criminal or fugitive. Rep. Drew Hansen’s (D-Bainbridge Island) bill, passed off the floor of the House with a large bipartisan majority, would alert law enforcement and domestic violence survivors when criminals illegally attempt to purchase firearms.

Under current law, when a person who is ineligible to own a firearm tries to buy one but fails the background check, there are no consequences. Even though it is a crime for people who know they are ineligible to purchase firearms to try to purchase a firearm, there is currently no 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 this discrepancy.

“If you’re a criminal and you walk into a firearms store, and you knowingly violate the law by illegally trying to purchase a firearm, you should be arrested, you should be prosecuted and in an appropriate case you should spend some time in prison,” 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.”

HB 1501 passed the House by an 84-13 vote and will now move to the Senate for further consideration.