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I was wondering how long it would take for the national stupidity to get to the state level.

House Bill 1588 would make it a gross misdemeanor (not a felony, as reported by the Seattle Times) to transfer your firearm to anyone at all without running a background check:

NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. The legislature finds that there is broad consensus that certain people, such as felons, minors, and involuntarily committed persons, should not be eligible to possess firearms for public safety reasons. Background checks are an effective and easy mechanism to ensure that firearms are not sold to those who are prohibited from possessing them. However, because background check requirements apply only to transfers by licensed firearms dealers, many firearms are currently sold without a background check, allowing felons and other ineligible persons to gain access to them. The legislature intends by this act to strengthen our background check system by broadening the requirement for a background check to apply to all firearms sales in the state.

I’ve helpfully highlighted the stupid in red.  The first statement is rubbish; the second is blithely asserted without any supporting evidence, mostly because there isn’t any.

Most firearms are sold through Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealers or between private parties who have already passed a background check.

Many people (including our President) are bandying about a “40%” figure, claiming that 2 out of 5 firearms sales are done without a background check.  The source of this number is a small survey from over two decades ago:

The dubious statistic of guns that avoided background checks — which is actually 36 percent — comes from a small 251-person survey on gun sales two decades ago, very early in the Clinton administration. Most of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks in early 1994.

If that alone didn’t make the number invalid, the federal survey simply asked buyers if they thought they were buying from a licensed firearms dealer. While all Federal Firearm Licensees do background checks, only those perceived as being FFLs were counted. Yet, there is much evidence that survey respondents who went to the smallest FFLs, especially the “kitchen table” types, had no idea that the dealer was actually “licensed.” Many buyers seemed to think that only “brick and mortar” stores were licensed dealers, and so the survey underestimating the number of sales covered by the checks.

Another reason for the high number is that it includes guns transferred as inheritances or as gifts from family members. Even President Obama’s background proposal excludes almost all of those transfers. [emphasis added]

(HB1588 doesn’t exclude family transfers. Want to pass on your trusty 12-gauge to your grandson?  Run him by the feds first.)

This bill is supposed to address the infamous “gun show loophole.”  To buy or sell a gun at the Washington Arms Collector shows, the largest in the state, you must be a WAC member.  And that requires…. a background check (with a $12 fee). Or a Washington Concealed Pistol License (CPL, which itself requires a background check).

Do people buy and sell in the parking lots outside the shows?  Probably.  (Although probably not as many as at this Seattle event.)  Are those the people who would comply with this law?  Some.  Maybe.

As a side note, one of the big pluses to having a CPL is exemption from background checks to buy firearms from a regular gun store; I am pre-checked, to borrow TSA’s wording.  That exemption does not exist for CPL holders in HB1588; I would need a new check for every private sale.

[Update: A helpful fact-checker informed me that the CPL can act in lieu of a Brady-mandated background check in this state only if it was issued after July 22, 2011.  I guess they’ll keep calling me “new kid” for quite a while yet.]

Internet sales?  Every reputable site requires involvement from a local FFL to finish the sale; that’s already federal law.  You normally pay said FFL a premium of between 20 and 50 dollars for the privilege, on top of whatever the seller gets.

Speaking of “effective and easy,” (in the same article):

[Economist John] Lott notes that 8 percent of background checks are initially denied, with almost all of the delays until they are finally approved taking three days or longer. When the reviews were finally finished, 94 percent of “initial delays” were dropped because they were cases of mistaken identity.

Delays are undoubtedly just an inconvenience for most people buying guns. But for a few, such as those in imminent fear of a stalker or others who suddenly need a gun for self-defense, universal-background-check laws could prevent them from defending themselves against assailants.

Background check requirements, like training and certification requirements, place an undue burden on the people most likely to need effective means of self defense and to need it now.

The state has failed to make a compelling case that it has a legitimate need to know to whom I sell or give my property.

Under current RCW, “No person may deliver a firearm to any person whom he or she has reasonable cause to believe is ineligible under RCW 9.41.040 to possess a firearm.”  This is already a class C felony.  (This is also illegal under federal law.)

What business is it of Olympia’s to whom I sell my guns?  Do they think I will just hand them off to every wide-eyed psycho who hands me a stack of bills?  Do they have any evidence that this is an actual problem that needs to be addressed?  If I’m the sort of person who would do that, do you think a gross misdemeanor would stop me?

Some people honestly believe that I should have to prove my need to exercise certain rights.  They have it exactly backward.  The burden of proof is on the State to prove its need to abrogate them, and it had better do a really good job.  I’m not seeing it yet.  Yes, it’s the first day the thing was presented, but shouldn’t you have done your homework and made your case before you decide you know enough to change the law?

This represents a first step toward universal firearms registration.

WA already requires FFLs to register each sale with the state.  After that, it’s the purchaser’s private property, to dispose of or enjoy as he sees fit–you know, like every other kind of private property.  (Yes, I know you register your cars, too, but that’s only required to drive them on the public-maintained roads.)

HB1588 does not spell out what will be on the form in great detail, simply that it will be the same as for pistol purchases from dealers, plus anything else the Department of Licensing deems appropriate.  Here’s the applicable section of 9.41.090:

(5) At the time of applying for the purchase of a pistol, the purchaser shall sign in triplicate and deliver to the dealer an application containing his or her full name, residential address, date and place of birth, race, and gender; the date and hour of the application; the applicant’s driver’s license number or state identification card number; a description of the pistol including the make, model, caliber and manufacturer’s number if available at the time of applying for the purchase of a pistol.

Why does the state need to know where every individual firearm goes?  (And what might the DoL deem appropriate?  “Intended use?”  “Number of children in the home?”  “Make and model of gun safe?” “Number of times per month you plan to fire this weapon?”)

There are two possible outcomes here.  The first is that the criminal and unsavory types that this is meant to trip up will continue to get their weapons illicitly and law-abiding citizens will be inconvenienced and tracked for no good reason.  The second is that previously law-abiding citizens will “forget” to register their sales to save themselves some money and hassle.

So this can’t really work–unless we know what everyone has.  A more cynical sort of mind than mine might conclude that this is a necessary, designed-to-fail, first step toward registration, which always fails horribly, and is itself a prerequisite to confiscation.  Do I think that is seriously what the proponents are after?  No, not really; I don’t know enough to have an opinion.  But why take the first step at all?

If you skip everything else, read this part.

From David Kopel’s written testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday:

Americans are quite aware that gun registration can be a tool for gun confiscation. That is why Congress has enacted three separate laws (1941, 1986, and 1993) to prohibit federal gun registration. Congress first acted in 1941 because Congress saw how Hitler and Stalin had been using gun registration for confiscation. Since then, registration lists have been used in many countries, and in New York City, for confiscation. Indeed, even if we look only at registration laws enacted by democratic nations, in most countries gun registration lists have eventually been used for the confiscation of many firearms.

Really, read the entire testimony.  It’s worth your time.

If you promise me that you will not misuse the information gathered as allowed by HB1588, I might believe you.  If you promise me that none of your successors in Olympia  (or DC) will ever abuse this information, you’re a liar.