Report: Washington state’s background check system needs fix

By Martha Bellisle

The Associated Press

SEATTLE — Washington state’s system for conducting background checks on people trying to buy firearms is fragmented and “specific improvements” are needed, according to a report released by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Under the current system, 260 local law enforcement agencies conduct background checks when someone in their jurisdiction wants to buy a handgun or get a concealed pistol license, the report said.

Complex, inconsistent

The system is complex and inconsistent and should be streamlined, Ferguson said.

The state should ensure that resources are available for timely and complete input of data, he said.

People buying rifles and shotguns are checked through a federal database.

Ferguson’s office conducted an access-to-firearms study in response to an executive order that Gov. Jay Inslee issued in January, “citing the public health implications of gun-related violence, crime, fatalities and injuries,” the report said.

The order noted that firearm deaths in Washington state exceed motor vehicle deaths, and about 80 percent of gun deaths are suicides.

Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee said Wednesday that the governor has not had a chance to review the report.

Several parts of the governor’s executive order are in the works, she said. The Office of Financial Management is trying to determine the effectiveness of information sharing between courts, law enforcement and others. The Department of Health is working on a suicide prevention plan.

Don’t always line up

Both state and federal laws prohibit certain people from possessing firearms, but the two don’t always line up, the report said.

While recent legislation brought Washington in line with federal laws concerning firearms and mental health issues, the state law should be expanded to include a ban on firearms possession for people “who pose a high risk to themselves or others,” and the measure should include due-process protections.

Washington state doesn’t have a law that connects possessing firearms to the use of controlled substances unless using drugs results in a serious crime, the report said.

But federal law prohibits firearm possession by an illegal drug user or addict.

“The legalization of recreational and medical marijuana in Washington and other states poses a challenge for both potential gun buyers and the states,” Ferguson said.

A federal appeals court and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have sided with federal law, the report said.

“Officials in Washington should appeal to Congress and the federal ADF to allow legal access to firearms for individuals whose use or possession of marijuana is legal under state law,” Ferguson recommended.

The state should develop a system that allows law enforcement agencies to share information about people who tried to buy a gun but failed the background check, the report said.

Those gun shoppers could face prosecution, he said.

Washington should also improve its system for restoring the right to possess firearms for certain people who have lost that right, the report said.

Death or injury

The unsafe storage of firearms has resulted in death or injury, especially involving children, the report said. In Washington, about 24,000 youths live in homes with unlocked and loaded firearms, the report said.

Ferguson recommended a law that creates a criminal penalty for gun owners who don’t safely secure a firearm, if the owner knows it can be accessed by a minor.

More in News

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe council leaders celebrate the opening of the tribe’s new library at its Blyn campus on Saturday. Pictured, from left, are treasurer Theresa Lehman, vice chair Loni Grinnell-Greninger, chair/CEO Ron Allen and secretary Rochelle Blankenship. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe celebrates library opening

Chairman/CEO: New facility is ‘second to none’

Solar array, battery storage to be installed on Port Angeles Senior Center

System could provide hours of backup power in case of an outage

UPDATE: Power restored between Sequim, Port Angeles

A tree has been removed from a Clallam County PUD… Continue reading

Road work to close Quinault Loop

Work crews from Haztech Drilling will begin geotechnical drilling… Continue reading

Fiber gathering Thursday at Studio Bob

Marva Holmes will host “St*tch & B*tch” at 4:30… Continue reading

Dream Playground to be fully covered by insurance

Donations still will be used in May rebuild

About 30 sailboats compete in the Port Townsend Sailing Association’s 33rd annual Shipwrights Regatta on Port Townsend Bay on Saturday. More of a fun event than a sailing competition, awards are given out during a pizza party afterward for the most navigationally challenged (Directional Helmet trophy) and for the “saltiest” boat and crew. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Shipwrights Regatta

About 30 sailboats compete in the Port Townsend Sailing Association’s 33rd annual… Continue reading

The City of Sequim hosts 13 manufactured home/mobile home parks with 596 existing units and 786 approved dwelling units. City staff continue to look into zoning options that could protect these sites from redevelopment to help protect affordable housing options in the city. (City of Sequim)
Sequim extends its mobile home moratorium

City staff to work preserving manufactured housing option

Olympic Medical Center chief outlines efforts at improvements

Decreased number of travelers among them

Jay and Trudi Inslee wear red for #WearRedDay to support women’s heart health in 2022. (Jay Inslee)
Gov. Inslee reflects in his final year of three terms

On the second level of the white and gray marbled… Continue reading

Chris Johnson of Nordland-based Nordland Construction loads traffic drums onto a trailer as coworker Robert Bufford prepares to secure the load as the pair prepares to open the parking lot at Port Angeles City Pier to automobiles on Friday. The work was part of a project to improve storm drainage, replace damaged sidewalks and ADA ramps and mitigate shoreline erosion around the lot, which had been closed since early January. Tree replacement and other project detail work is expected to follow over the next few weeks.
City Pier parking open

Chris Johnson of Nordland-based Nordland Construction loads traffic drums onto a trailer… Continue reading

Sequim Citizen of the Year luncheon on Tuesday

Emiko Brock, Labbe, Olsen to be honored