Records from the FBI reveal the first hard numbers on the impact of Initiative 594, which requires universal background checks for all guns sold in Washington state.
The FBI’s criminal background check database shows that 50 felons were denied firearms purchases in the first 14 months that the law was in effect.
The information was contained in response to a public records request filed by the KING 5 Investigators, in conjunction with public radio’s Northwest News Network.
I-594 requires background checks for gun sales between private citizens.
Guns sold by licensed firearms dealers, like gun shops, have long required background checks.
FBI records show that a total of 3,948 felons were caught trying to buy a firearm in Washington state last year.
Almost all of those cases involved sales by licensed firearms dealers.
Records show that 50 additional felons were caught because of the provisions of I-594. They were attempting to purchase a gun from a private gun owner.
The law requires both the seller and buyer to visit a licensed gun dealer, who conducts the background check. Typically, the dealer holds on to the gun until the background check is complete.
The Second Amendment Foundation, a gun rights organization in Bellevue, called 50 an “infinitesimal” number and proof that I-594 isn’t working.
“It just proves to me that the initiative was a lot of flash and not much substance,” Second Amendment’s Dave Workman said.
Workman said the initiative is an inconvenience to more than a million Washington gun owners and it’s not been effective in punishing felons who break the law.
“Have there been 50 arrests and 50 prosecutions?” Workman asked.
State court records show there have been no prosecutions related to I-594.
The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility said the 50 denials are evidence the law is working.
“We know that private sale background checks are being performed and now we know that it is actually preventing sales to prohibited people,” the Alliance’s Joanna Paul told KUOW radio.