A bi-partisan pair of lawmakers has introduced a bill targeting the thousands of potential gun buyers who fail criminal background checks in Washington each year.
The bill would require licensed firearms dealers, who run the background check at the point of sale, to notify the Washington State Patrol if a buyer fails the screening process.
Buyers are required to certify on a federal form that they do not have any criminal convictions or other prohibitions that would bar them from purchasing a firearm. Lying on that form is a state and federal crime.
An investigation by KING 5 and the public radio’s Northwest News Network found that sales of more than 3,200 firearms were denied in Washington in the nine-month period ending in September 2016.
However, several police officials admitted they did not investigate any of those potential crimes. Even though police agencies actually conduct the background check and report back to the gun dealer, officials said their departments do not have the resources to follow up on denied purchases.
“Where’s the follow-up when some criminal tried to buy a firearm illegally?” State Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bremerton, asked Northwest News Network.
Hansen partnered with Republican Rep. Dave Hayes to craft House Bill 1501.
The bill would require the Washington State Patrol to investigate denied buyers and refer the cases to prosecutors if warranted. It will also set up a mechanism for domestic violence survivors and other victims to be notified if the person they have a protection order against tries to buy a gun.
“This is doing something for the victims,” Hayes said. “What’s really compelling to me is the victim notification.”