SEATTLE – Washington’s new background check requirement for all firearm sales and transfers went into effect on Thursday, and the group behind the new law announced its goals for the next legislative session.
Increased access to mental health services, holding adults responsible for keeping guns away from children and protective orders for at-risk people should be added to background checks for private gun sales to help reduce gun violence in Washington, members of the coalition that backed Initiative 594 said during a press conference at Plymouth Church.
“After nearly 18 months of hard work and years of inaction, Initiative 594 is in effect, and today Washington state has closed the background check loophole,” said Cheryl Stumbo, the citizen-sponsor of the initiative. “By a clear vote of the people, Washington has become the 17th state with background checks on all gun sales and the first to take this important step by popular ballot.”
Alan Gottlieb, founder of the gun-rights Second Amendment Foundation, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
The initiative was an example of what the gun-violence prevention movement can accomplish, said Sandy Brown, president of the Center for Gun Responsibility. Riding that momentum, he said the group will pursue a new list of “effective and meaningful policies” that have been shown to protect human life in other states where they’ve been implemented.
“These policies enshrine the belief that gun responsibility is part and parcel of gun ownership and completely consistent with our Second Amendment rights,” he said. “Responsible gun ownership and use, in fact, help protect Second Amendment rights.”
When asked if any of the nine people who made the presentation were gun owners, two, including Brown, said they were former gun owners but none currently owned guns.
One of the proposed measures would make an adult who fails to properly store a firearm criminally liable. More than half of the states in the U.S. have such laws, coalition member Rory Graves said.
“We know that easy access to firearms by children dramatically increases the rates of accidental shootings, youth suicide and even mass shootings,” she said, adding that the Oct. 24 shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School was an example of a tragedy that resulted when a young person took a firearm out of the home. Having a law to hold adults responsible when children get hold of guns would help ensure that gun-owners act responsibly, she said.
The group also wants families and law enforcement to have the ability to secure a “gun violence protection order” when a mentally ill person threatens to harm themselves or others. The orders would help keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable, coalition member Margaret Heldring said.
The coalition also wants tougher scrutiny of gun ranges to guard against lead poisoning.
As proposals move through the Legislature, the group will keep a scorecard to determine “which legislators stand with us on sensible gun policies and which legislators stand with the gun lobby.”
“The clear message of the last 18 months is that people of Washington expect their leaders to take action on gun violence prevention policies,” Brown said. “And now they have a golden opportunity to do so.”
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