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Measure Details

Concerns Firearms

Washington Ballot Measure - Initiative Measure No. 591

Election: Nov. 4, 2014 (General)
Outcome: Pending

Categories:
Guns

Summary

The Law As It Presently Exists
Both state and federal laws require that certain sellers of firearms conduct background checks of buyers before selling firearms to determine whether the buyer can legally possess a firearm. Washington law makes it illegal for convicted felons to possess firearms. It also makes it illegal for certain others to possess firearms, including people who: (1) have been convicted of certain misdemeanors; (2) have been issued certain types of restraining orders; (3) have been found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity; (4) have been found mentally incompetent; or (5) have certain criminal charges pending. It is a felony to deliver any firearm to any person reasonably believed to be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm.

State laws governing background checks vary from state to state. In Washington, a background check is only required to buy a pistol, and only if the seller is a firearms dealer. Washington law also provides an exception to the background check requirement for certain sales of pistols from dealers. If the buyer has already been issued a concealed pistol license, then no further background check is required. Also, a firearms dealer can complete a sale if the sheriff or police chief fails to provide the results of a background check within five business days. That five day period can be extended if the buyer does not have a valid permanent Washington driver’s license or identification card, or has lived in Washington for less than ninety days.

Washington law allows Washington residents to buy rifles and shotguns in other states. And it allows residents of other states to buy rifles and shotguns in Washington. In both cases, the sale must comply with federal law. The sale must also be legal under the laws of both Washington and the other state.

Federal law also requires background checks on potential buyers of firearms. This federal requirement applies only when the seller is a firearms dealer. Unlike Washington law, the federal requirement applies to all types of firearms, not just pistols. Federal law does not require a background check if the buyer holds a concealed pistol license. Also, federal law allows a firearms dealer to complete a sale if the results of a background check are not returned within three business days.

The federal and state constitutions prohibit governments from confiscating private property, including firearms, without providing due process of law. In general, due process requires a lawful basis for taking the property, notice of the government’s action, and an opportunity to explain why property should not be forfeited. Court proceedings are examples of ways in which due process is provided. Washington law authorizes the forfeiture of firearms in a number of situations. Washington courts may order forfeiture of firearms found in the possession of people who cannot legally possess firearms or who have criminal proceedings pending. Courts may also order forfeiture of firearms that have been found concealed on a person who does not have a permit to carry a concealed pistol. Firearms used in the commission of certain crimes may also be forfeited. And firearms can be forfeited if found in the possession of a person arrested for a felony in which the firearm was used or displayed.

The Effect Of The Proposed Measure If Approved
This measure would prohibit government agencies from requiring background checks on the recipient of a firearm unless a uniform national standard is required.

This measure would also state that government agencies may not confiscate firearms from citizens without due process.

Measure Text

This measure would prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process, or from requiring background checks on firearm recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.

Should this measure be enacted into law?

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