Washington state voters Tuesday approved a wide-ranging new gun control law that could mandate a background check each time someone hands or loans a friend a gun.
That’s the charge by Initiative 594 opponents, who say the new law – which passed by nearly 60 percent of the vote – would implement burdensome restrictions on gun owners.
“It could put law-abiding gun owners in legal jeopardy,” said Catherine Mortensen, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action.
Under current law, background checks are required each time a person buys a gun at a store or gun shop. But I-594 expands that to mandate background checks for private sales as well as “transfers.”
For months, the NRA warned voters that I-594 would do far more than supporters acknowledged it would.
“Although they describe it as a ‘universal background check’ measure, it is not universal because criminals will never comply with the requirements” the No 594 website said. “It is, however, universal handgun registration. Under I-594, every time a handgun is transferred, the person receiving the handgun will have their name added to the government database being maintained by the state Department of Licensing.
The website added, “Under the language of I-594, in virtually all cases, a person merely handing his or her firearm to a family member or a friend cannot do so without brokering the transfer through a gun dealer with the accompanying fees, paperwork, taxes and, in the case of handguns, state registration.”
The new law defines a transfer as the “the intended delivery of a firearm to another person without consideration of payment or promise of payment including, but not limited to, gifts and loans.”
David Kopel, an adjunct professor at the University of Denver’s law school, told The Seattle Times that I-594 would make illegal simply handing a gun a friend to someone without getting a background check.
“Clearly the kind of transfers that are covered under this are short-term,” he said.
A lawsuit against the new law is possible.
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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who recently purchased the Los Angeles Clippers, donated $250,000 to the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which backed 594. Another Microsoft founder, Paul Allen, also donated to the Alliance. Venture capitalist and software entrepreneur Nick Hanauer also donated $1 million, according to The Seattle Post Intelligencer.
Supporters of I-594 outspent opponents by a wide margin.
“Gates is one of a handful of wealthy Seattle-area elitists who … shelled out big bucks to push this measure,” a statement from Allen Gottlieb, the chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms reads. “The campaign has become a battle of class warfare, pitting the rich against Washington State’s far-less-privileged middle class firearms owners, and their families and friends.”
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