Uh Oh: Anti-Gunners Say They're 'Thrilled' About Washington State Legislative Session

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File

If the gun control lobby is happy about the results of a legislative session, you can rest assured that gun owners are about to see their rights curtailed. That's certainly the case in Washington, where lawmakers were supposedly taking a "modest" approach to gun bills this year. So far legislators have adopted just four new measures dealing with firearms, but the scope of the provisions could still have a major impact on gun owners throughout the state. 


HB 1903 is a "lost or stolen" bill that turns crime victims into criminals themselves if they fail to report the loss or theft of a firearm to police within 24 hours. A first offense is considered a civil infraction punishable by a fine up to $1,000. The bill also specifies that if a gun is unsecured when it's stolen the gun owner could be subject to additional criminal penalties as well.

SB 5444, meanwhile creates several new "Semi-Gun-Free Zones" where the carrying of firearms will be a misdemeanor offense unless the gun possessor also has an active concealed carry license. Public libraries, zoos and aquariums, public transportation are among those supposedly sensitive places where open carry will now be banned outright. 

HB 2021 mandates that law enforcement agencies destroy firearms that are turned in during "buyback" events, instead of allowing them to be resold. This appears to be a response to a New York Times story that ran in late December, which detailed that a company providing "free" gun destruction services was destroying the frame or receiver and selling the remaining gun parts, which are not considered a firearm under federal law. The Times claims this is a "loophole" of sorts, even though Gunbusters says they make it clear to agencies it works with that if they want to destroy every part of a firearm that's handed over, that's not a service they can provide free of charge. The company has to make its money somewhere, and selling off the parts that remain after a frame or receiver has been destroyed is their primary revenue stream. 


The worst of the four bills approved by Washington lawmakers isn't aimed directly at gun owners, but rather gun sellers. Under HB 2118, federally licensed firearm dealers in the state will be forced to adopt a number of new security measures, some of which will be too costly for smaller shops to comply with.

It requires firearm dealers to adopt specified security features including bars on doors and windows, “alarm and surveillance systems, and safe storage and record keeping practices,” according to the bill report. 

Troy Nicholas with the National Shooting Sports Foundation told lawmakers that dealers were willing to accept background check and age-verification requirements for employees, but opposed video-retention requirements as cost prohibitive.

Walla Walla County Sheriff Mark Crider also testified in opposition to that bill last month.

“Its demands are unrealistic and draconian mandates that have zero law enforcement value and appear to have no other purpose than to put Washington [Federal Firearms License] holders out of business,” Crider said.

Supporters say the new requirements will help keep guns out of the illegal market. They noted that in the final version the video-retention requirement was shortened from multi-year proposals to 90 days. The effective date of the bill is delayed until July 2025.

Even if the video-retention mandate has been cut to 90 days, we're still talking about an enormous amount of data that must be kept on hand and available for law enforcement. And there's no carve out for home-based FFLs either, so they too will be expected to maintain constant audio and video surveillance of "interior views of all exterior doors, windows, and any other points on ingress and egress," as well as "all areas where firearms are displayed, and all points of sale in a manner sufficient to identify the parties to any transaction." That's going to be almost impossible to do without invading the privacy of home-based FFLs, but it's also going to be too expensive for most part-time gun dealers to comply with. 


Though Washington lawmakers haven't adopted California-style "gun-free zones" or expanded the state's "red flag" law and "assault weapon" ban this year, gun control activists are already looking towards the 2025 session, where they hope to enact another major infringement on our Second Amendment rights. 

"We’re pretty thrilled by the results" of this legislative session, said [Dylan] O’Connor with the Association for Gun Responsibility.

He said his group’s priority for next year’s legislative session will be a proposal for a new permitting system, which did not pass this year.

“So that’s a ‘permit to purchase’ system to require someone who wants to buy a gun to go obtain a permit before doing so,” O'Connor said.

A permit-to-purchase scheme is just another layer of red tape for gun owners to deal with before they can exercise their right to keep and bear arms. While O'Connor hasn't mentioned any specifics about the proposed language in Washington State, other states like Oregon and Maryland require individuals to undergo firearms training and additional background checks before a sheriff can issue their permission slip to purchase a gun. 

While most cities across the country saw a substantial decline in homicides last year, Seattle was one of the few cities to buck that trend. The city had at least 69 murders in 2023, tying the record set in 1994 and 1969. But lawful gun owners don't drive Seattle's crime, and none of the gun control measures adopted in the state over the past decade have done anything to stop the bleeding in King County. Quite the opposite, actually. Crime's been going up as lawmakers continually put the screws to gun owners, and until legislators decide to focus on violent criminals instead of turning the right to keep and bear arms into a series of interlocking possessory offenses Seattle's going to continue to be a far more dangerous place than it should be. 


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