Guns

Washington Gun Owners Plan Mass Defiance of New Background Check Law

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Tens of thousands of Connecticut gun owners chose to become overnight felons rather than comply with that state's new gun registration law. The defiance spurred the Hartford Courant editorial board to impotently sputter about rounding up the scofflaws.

New York's similar registration law suffers such low compliance that state officials won't even reveal how many people have abide by the measure—a desperate secrecy ploy that the New York State Committee on Open Government says thumbs its nose at the law itself.

Now Washington state residents pissed of about i594, a ballot measure inflicting background check requirements on even private transactions, plan an exercise in mass disobedience next month.

Facebook/RALpatriots

The fellow getting much of the credit for organizing the rally is Gavin Seim, a former (unsuccessful) congressional candidate and passionate conservative. Seim got a lot of buzz last month when he pulled over an unmarked police car and demanded that the officer show identification. Perhaps surprisingly, Seim not only wasn't ventilated, but the officer complied.

Seim and his allies (the Facebook event page lists Kit Lange Carroll, Sondra Seim, and Anthony P. Bosworth as co-hosts) plan a rally for the Washington State Capitol, in Olympia, on December 13 at 11am PST. That's nine days after the law goes into effect. So far, almost 6,000 people have indicated their intention to attend and "exchange guns" without going through a background check, in defiance of the new requirements.

According to the state Attorney General's analysis, there are exceptions to the background checks, but they're pretty clearly delineated.

The measure would establish a number of exceptions to the background check requirement. A background check would not be required to transfer a firearm by gift between family members. The background check requirement also would not apply to the sale or transfer of antique firearms. It also would not apply to certain temporary transfers of a firearm when needed to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. Background checks would not be required for certain public agencies or officers acting in their official capacity, including law enforcement or corrections agencies or officers, members of the military, and federal officials. Federally licensed gunsmiths who receive firearms solely to service or repair them would not be required to undergo background checks.

Certain other temporary transfers of a firearm would also not require a background check. These include temporary transfers between spouses, and temporary transfers for use at a shooting range, in a competition, or for performances. A temporary transfer to a person under age eighteen for hunting, sporting, or education would not require a background check. Other temporary transfers for lawful hunting also would not require a background check.

A person who inherited a firearm other than a pistol upon the death of its former owner would not be required to undergo a background check. A person who inherited a pistol would either have to lawfully transfer the pistol within 60 days or inform the department of licensing that he or she intended to keep the pistol.

Those are pretty broad exceptions (to unenforceable requirements), but they still don't seem to accommodate exchanges at political rallies. What are the chances the authorities decide this is a "performance" and so they need take no action?

Even so, if the event comes off as planned and thousands of people show up to demonstrate an intent to publicly defy the law, that should be an indicator that Washington's background checks are destined for the same fate as the registration laws in New York and Connecticut.

Below, Seim speaks about guns and i594 in the days leading up to the measure's passage.