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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  WA Government

Background check failures for gun purchases could be reported to Washington State Patrol under proposed legislation

March 23, 2017 Updated Thu., March 23, 2017 at 10:50 p.m.

OLYMPIA – Felons and others who can’t legally buy guns would be reported to law enforcement when they fail a background check and potential victims could get a warning under a bill being considered by a Senate committee.

It’s an effort that Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, said would “put some teeth” into the state’s background check law, which stopped some 3,000 gun sales to people who weren’t legally able to buy them last year. About half of those sales would have been to felons or fugitives from justice.

But not much happened to them, Hansen told the Senate Law and Justice Committee, because “there’s not a lot of followup.”

Local law enforcement generally wasn’t alerted, charges weren’t filed and notice wasn’t given to potential victims when a person for whom they have obtained a protection order was blocked from buying a gun.

“We don’t get notified about these attempts so I could at least warn victims,” Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza told the committee.

That worries victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Courtney Weaver said she was shot in the face and arm by an abusive boyfriend in 2010. He’s in prison now, but is scheduled to be released in two years, she said, and she needs to know if he tries to buy a gun.

“The hardest thing is to stay two steps ahead of your abuser,” Weaver said. “This bill would give me peace of mind.”

The legislation would require firearms dealers to report those denials to the Washington State Patrol, which would keep a database of the reports, investigate the denials and refer cases for possible prosecution. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs would create a statewide system to notify a registered person when the subject of a court order has been denied a gun purchase.

The bill passed the House 84-13 earlier this month. The Law and Justice Committee could decide whether to send it to the Senate budget committee as early as next week.

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