WA bill would warn crime victims if attacker tries to buy gun

Crime victims who need protection the most are asking lawmakers to help.

Courtney Weaver, of Seattle, was shot in the arm and the face when she tried to break up with her abusive boyfriend.

That was seven years ago.

Now she worries that one of his first stops, when he’s released from prison, will be the gun store.

“I’ve had 14 reconstructive surgeries,” Weaver told the Washington House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

She spoke in support of House Bill 1501, which could be a life saver for her if her ex does indeed try to buy a gun and finish the murder-suicide he started in 2010.

The law would require law agencies to notify crime victims if their attacker tries to buy a gun. If the abuser fails a background check at a gun store, an alert will be sent to the victim.

“So not only will I know that he’s trying to buy a gun, but I’ll know where he’s at. Then I can coordinate with local law enforcement,” said Weaver.

In Washington, thousands of prohibited buyers fail background checks each year in attempting to purchase a firearm.

An investigation by KING 5 and public radio’s Northwest News Network found that police do not investigate buyers who fail the background check because of felony convictions, mental health issues or protection orders that have been filed against them.

At the same time KING 5 started its investigation Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, and Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, a full-time police officer, also started looking into the issue.

“Over the summer we started asking questions.  OK, you fail a background check – what happens?” Hansen told his colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee.

They crafted House Bill 1501 when they discovered that there was a large gap in enforcement against prohibited gun buyers who fail a background check.

Police agencies already conduct the background checks that are required to buy a gun.  However, they say they don’t have the resources to investigate further once a buyer fails a background check.

Hayes and Hansen’s bill would tap the Washington State Patrol to follow up on all failed background checks.

Domestic violence advocates and organizations that represent prosecutors and police agencies also spoke in favor of HB 1501.

A National Rifle Association spokesperson says the NRA has concerns about the accuracy of the background check process - he said a report indicated a 5 percent error rate. But he said the NRA generally supports a law that would keep guns out of the hands of someone that is not supposed to have them.

Copyright 2017 KING


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