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Tuesday, March 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: I-594 opponents can’t find ammo to fight it

Initiative 594 was passed by 59 percent of the voters in November, after which opponents of background checks for private gun sales predicted all manner of mayhem for gun owners. Not content to wait for these predicted consequences, some opponents staged events in which they tried to provoke law enforcement by passing guns around. No luck.

On Thursday, a judge threw out a lawsuit challenging the “transfer” portion of the new law. U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma said nobody is being prosecuted for gun transfers, so what’s the problem? In legal parlance, the plaintiffs have no standing.

I-594 expanded background checks to virtually all private sales, including gun show and online transactions. Sales at licensed stores already required such checks. The purpose was to make it more difficult for felons, domestic violence offenders and the seriously mentally ill to obtain firearms illegally.

The problem for I-594 opponents is that the law doesn’t go as far as the imaginative “what-ifs” posed during their failed campaign to defeat the initiative.

According to an Associated Press report, “They questioned whether background checks would be required for a FedEx worker who transported a gun sold in Washington, whether an unmarried couple living together would be allowed to share a gun, or whether an airline worker would need a background check before handling luggage containing a firearm.”

So far, all these hypotheticals have remained hypothetical.

But that’s an inconvenient truth when trying to get a law tossed that does many things opponents don’t like, such as requiring a background check on private sales. The law is clear on that, so opponents went hunting for examples of confusion in other areas of the law.

Some were convinced that handing guns to one another was illegal, so they staged such transfers on the Capitol grounds, daring troopers to stop them. But law enforcement officials had already said they wouldn’t consider that a “transfer” requiring a background check.

So the rallies turned into duds, and participants left without tangible examples of the feared consequences.

This newspaper published many letters warning of heavy-handed infringement of constitutional rights. But I-594 has been the law for months, and the sky-is-falling rhetoric has lost its oomph. In their zeal to expose the law as unreasonable, opponents handed the judge a reason to throw out a legal challenge.

Now opponents are in the strange position of urging a broader interpretation of a law they loathe, so they will have something to bring to a judge. The Second Amendment Foundation has indicated it will probably appeal Judge Settle’s decision.

Why not wait until an actual problem arises?

Wordcount: 442

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