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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Inslee signs felony gun register bill, calls for background checks


OLYMPIA – Anyone convicted of a felony involving a gun could be required to register with the state law enforcement agencies for four years under a bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The felony firearms registry, which would be maintained by the Washington State Patrol, was the most significant gun legislation to pass in the recently concluded session. Inslee challenged legislators to go further in the upcoming special session, which starts Monday, and vote on background checks for all gun purchases.

“We’ll not leave until gun violence is addressed in our state,” Inslee told reporters after signing a total of 25 bills on a wide variety of topics.

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Under the firearms registry law, a person convicted of a felony involving a firearm, or a person found not guilty by reason of insanity on a felony firearms charge, can be ordered by the sentencing judge to register with the sheriff in the county where he or she lives.

In some ways it is similar to the state’s sex offender registry, which has been in effect since the 1990s. Within two days of release from custody, the convicted felon must supply information about name, address, physical description and details of the conviction. The sheriff can require a photograph and fingerprints be taken.

For the next four years, the felon must re-register every year if he or she remains at the same address, or within two days of moving to a new location. Failure to register can bring a gross misdemeanor charge.

In other ways, the felony firearms registry is different from the sex offender list. Registration requirements end after four years, and the name is removed from the list, which is not available to the public. It’s maintained by the patrol, available only to law enforcement officers. Supporters say it is designed to let law enforcement officers know if they’ve stopped someone previously convicted of a firearms offense and map where those felons live.

Although the firearms registry bill received strong support in both houses, other gun legislation failed to make it through the regular session. That included universal background checks for gun purchasers, which was pulled from a House vote when it became clear it didn’t have enough votes to pass, even after Inslee came to the chamber to personally lobby some legislators. It never came up for a vote in the Senate.

Inslee contended Wednesday that background checks should be part if the upcoming special session: “They should take a vote on this and pass it.”

Some legislators have said, however, the 30-day special session should concentrate on the state’s two-year budget and not involve controversial policy issues that failed to pass in the 105-day regular session.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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