Denied gun sales referred to local police up 179% since 2017 law passed



(The Center Square) – The Washington Legislature in 2017 enacted HB 1501 to crack down on the number of people ineligible to purchase a firearm from attempting to do so and protect individuals filing protective or restraining orders.

Yet, crime reports show that the number of denied transactions has increased since then, along with the number of sales directly referred to local law enforcement agencies for investigation.

Prior to HB 1501’s passage, there was no reporting system when a person failed to pass a background check during a gun sale or transfer process. The 2017 bill altered that by requiring all gun dealers report denied transactions to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, or WASPC.

In addition to compiling annual reports, the association also maintains an automated system that notifies a registered person when an individual who is subject to a protective order has attempted to purchase a firearm.

Additionally, WASPC directly refers certain types of denied transactions to local law enforcement for follow-up investigation under the following circumstances:

A licensed gun dealer requests it.An applicant has failed a background check at one or more gun dealers in a two-year period.The applicant may have a state felony conviction.The applicant may have a state domestic violence conviction.The applicant is the respondent in a state protective order.

During the first year of the bill’s implementation, between July 2017 and June 2018, there were 3,248 denied firearm sales or transfers, with 669 reports directly referred to local law enforcement agencies. Among those referred reports, 192 were due to the person having an active protective order out against them, while 255 were due to the individual having one or more felony convictions.

Additionally, 2,425 notifications were sent out regarding protectives orders to people registered with WASPC’s automated system.

According to the latest report put out by WASPC, those numbers have all gone up significantly, with 4,234 denied transactions between July 2021 and June 2022, a 30% increase. The number of reports directly referred to local law enforcement agencies has also increased by 179% to 1,868.

Of those direct reports referrals, 635 were for domestic violence convictions, and 989 were due to the individual having one or more state felony convictions.

Meanwhile, the number of firearm-involved domestic violence violations had doubled since 2014, when the Legislature enacted ESHB 1840. The law prohibits people subject to certain protection, no-contact, or restraining orders from possessing firearms.

The report containing statistics for July 2022-June 2023 will be submitted to the Legislature on December 1, 2023.

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