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Proposed background check system could increase firearm prices in Washington

Right now, Washington State Law requires local law enforcement agencies to run certain firearm background checks. That can add up to 440,000 checks a year.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The state of Washington is looking for a way to make gun background checks a more efficient process.

A report released by the state Office of Financial Management (OFM) revealed there is a way, but it comes at a cost. It could make the process for a background check faster, but it could also cost more to buy a gun.

Right now, Washington State Law requires local law enforcement agencies to run certain firearm background checks. That can add up to 440,000 checks a year.

The OFM recommends a state system to keep the public safer and take the burden away from those local agencies. Its report suggests switching to a centralized gun background check system.

Instead of local law enforcement agencies, the Washington State Patrol would run the system. 

The report suggests this system would streamline checks in a few ways. One being that, due to automation, the state-level background check could reduce the average wait time before a transfer is approved or denied.

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The report also said the new system would simplify the process for firearms dealers by establishing a single contact for all checks.

To implement the centralized system, there would be a $18.63 per check fee. Previously, there were no additional fees for firearm background checks.

That fee would go toward the overall cost of this program, which could be more than $10 million a year.

Washington State Patrol spokesperson Chris Loftis said the WSP is still in the early stages of reviewing the report recommendations and how it would be implemented.

Democrat Representative Timm Ormsby of Spokane echoes this, but he is confident in the OFM's expert reporting.

Republican Senator Mike Padden of Spokane Valley told KREM he supports the idea, the $18.63 per-check fee is not necessary.

RELATED: Washington state report recommends centralized gun background check system

"There is record revenue that's come into this state due to the booming economy," Padden said. "So in my mind there's not a need (for a fee). There should be a high enough priority, if it's going to be done, that we don't have to do it with additional fees."

Spokane's Sharp Shooting General Manager Jeremy Ball said a centralized gun background check system is a terrible idea.

He critiques the potential per-check fee fearing it could mean an additional tax on firearm purchases.

Ball said this would disproportionately affect low income purchasers making it more difficult for them to protect themselves and families.

According to Padden, we could see this report move forward in the upcoming legislative session in the form of a bill, or presented as part of the state budget.

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The following video is a report on a local gun shop facing new challenged with Initiative-1639.