Initiative 1639, approved in November, went into effect on Tuesday in Washington State. The legislation bans the sale of semi-automatic weapons to anyone under the age of 21.
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Additionally, in July, all gun buyers attempting to purchase a variety of weapons, from assault-style AR-15s to some .22 caliber sport rifles, will be subject to a new layer of more extensive background checks.
The new law also empowers prosecutors to pursue gun owners who allow, through neglect or purpose, legally purchased weapons to fall into the hands of a minor — or other unlawful user — who goes on to commit an act of violence.
In other words, if the perpetrator of a school shooting acquires his or her weapons from the unlocked gun safe of their parents, mom and dad could be prosecuted. Initiative 1639 calls the crime “community endangerment.”
the group responsible for the original ballot measure, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, has plans to pursue more aggressive policy changes in 2019. The organization wants to limit access to high-capacity magazines, as well as ban guns in child care and early learning centers.
As reported by the Seattle Times, some lawmakers and law enforcement officials are concerned about the added bureaucratic confusion that will be caused by the new background checks.
“While no one knows how many more checks police departments and county sheriff’s offices will have to conduct because of the initiative, it could amount to tens of thousands around the state,” writes reporter Joseph O’Sullivan.
The FBI also recently announced it would no longer perform “courtesy checks” on conceal-and-carry applicants in Washington State. The checks allow applicants to take their new firearm home on the day of purchase, instead of waiting the normally required 10-day period.
Washington State legislatures could attempt to clarify and tweak Initiative 1639 and its effects in the upcoming legislation session, which begins on Jan. 14.
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