Friday, August 29, 2014

Legislation on Firearms

By Susan LaLone, VP Public Policy at YWCA

Are you aware of the two state initiatives on the November ballot regarding firearms ownership, and the difference between the two? Why does it matter if you vote on these initiatives? A recent poll in Washington State showed those who responded were in favor of both. Yet these two initiatives are opposed to each other. Please take a few moments to read further and learn of the differences.

Born in a family of hunters, I was raised with firearms in the house. An early education on firearms taught me the need to be responsible with them. My experience as a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam veteran and retired federal police officer further enhanced this. As a police firearms instructor for 17 years, I both instructed and observed firearms safety. This showed me the need for constant training in both the physical use and knowledge of when to legally use firearms in our society. Unfortunately, not everyone has had the same opportunity to understand the consequences of using a firearm.

Since 1968, various municipalities, states and the Federal government have passed laws restricting firearms purchases to those able to pass a background check. Individuals with serious violent convictions are prohibited from purchasing guns. These laws work well with licensed firearm dealers, with only 1 % of these types of sales being refused. A serious hole in the system is with private sales, including those who sell from the numerous gun shows. These types of “dealers” have no requirement to initiate background checks when they sell guns. As a result, firearms may be obtained in these types of sales by virtually anyone. This is where state initiative 594 comes to play.

State Initiative 594 will require background checks for all sales of firearms in Washington State. This initiative plugs a serious hole in gun sales, and ensures all legal sales in Washington meet the current legal requirements and intents. However, there are those who believe this will restrict average citizens’ rights to obtain firearms. This type of thinking has put initiative 591 on the Washington State ballot.

If adopted, State Initiative 591will prevent the State Legislature from implementing background checks for firearms sales, unless the Federal government adopts a uniform standard for these sales. In effect, this checks the State Legislature from moving to a higher standard on firearms sales. By passing this initiative we will continue to allow a means for violent individuals to obtain firearms in Washington.

Please join YWCA Clark County and myself in supporting Initiative 594 and opposing Initiative 591. When dealing with firearms, there is only room for responsible and safe sales.

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