Image Credit: NRA
Barely two weeks after Washington State voters approved Initiative 594 — a measure the NRA warned was “deeply flawed” — our predicted consequences are beginning to emerge.
Under I-594’s restrictive language, a person simply handing his or her firearm to another is presumptively required to broker this “transfer” through a gun dealer. This also necessitates the accompanying background check, fee, paperwork, taxes and, in the case of a handgun, state registration.
Proponents of the initiative had assured voters that fears of this overreach were exaggerated. Prior to the vote on I-594, Geoff Potter, spokesman for 1-594 proponents Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, said I-594 “simply applies the current system of background checks to all sales.”
As recounted in a Washington State news report, however, the Lynden Pioneer Museum has opted to pull eleven loaned WWII rifles currently on display and return these firearms to their collector owners before the “transfer” requirement in I-594 takes effect next month. The reason? The law contains no exemptions for firearms loaned for museum displays, or loaned for similar educational or cultural institution study or uses. Once the law takes effect, the firearms could not be returned to their owners without the mandatory background checks and all the logistics and expenses that entails.
The museum director in Washington came to this decision reluctantly but unavoidably. “I read through the law about 10 different times looking for a loophole,” he said. He found none. Unfortunately, there is no guidance at the state level because Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has reportedly not formed an opinion about I-594, and no authoritative interpretation of the initiative is available to the public, apart from the text of I-594 itself. In the meantime, the museum’s attorney has stated he would welcome assurances from the state that it would not enforce the law to the detriment of the museum or the owners of the firearms on display. To date, however, no such assurances have been forthcoming.
For his part, Geoff Potter, according to the Associated Press, now states that the museum scenario “is clearly not what was concerned when I-594 was designed,” and added, “You can’t craft every possibility into every law.” The fact that advocates of I-594 ignored warnings by NRA and others of the measure’s overreach, however, tells a different story. These consequences can hardly be considered unforeseen, and perhaps, unintended. While even the staunchest supporters of the law do not appear to be arguing that the museum mishap somehow promotes public safety, it does serve their overarching goal of marginalizing the role of firearms in American life and history.
While we await news of other embarrassing and counterproductive consequences of the law, what is already obvious is that this poorly thought-out and badly drafted law goes too far, and will disproportionately, unnecessarily and unfairly burden law-abiding firearm owners.
Supporters of I-594 have indicated they will use the momentum from the Washington State vote to pursue similar “background check” campaigns in other states, including Nevada and Oregon. Yet if I-594 in Washington is good for anything, it is to painfully illustrate how the gun-control agenda leads to the chilling of innocent conduct, potentially creates criminals out of decent people, requires the willful suppression of reason and reality, and has little to do with public safety. Above all, it counsels that I-594 is a bad decision to be corrected, not one to be replicated in other states.
NRA is committed to doing everything we can to fight I-594 on behalf of our members in Washington State. We are already in discussions about legislative remedies to the most onerous provisions. As always, we will continue to work in whatever arena is realistic – legislative, legal or political – to address the concerns of our members.