Initiative 1639 would change state laws regarding firearms. Some changes relate only to semiautomatic assault rifles, other changes would apply to other firearms as well. The following summary of I-1639 is based on information from the Washington Voters Guide and the nonpartisan League of Women Voters.
Initiative 1639 would:
• Require increased background checks and proof of firearm safety training for purchasers of semiautomatic assault rifles;
• Set an age limit of 21 to buy a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle, make it illegal to sell or transfer a semiautomatic assault rifle to a person under age 21, and prohibit a person aged 18-21 from possessing a semiautomatic assault rifle except at the person’s residence, business, or property;
• Require dealers to wait at least 10 days before delivering an assault rifle and prohibit non-residents from buying a semiautomatic assault rifle in Washington;
• Change some laws that apply only to pistols and apply them to semiautomatic assault rifles as well, including restrictions on delivery when a buyer has an outstanding arrest warrant;
• Allow a fee of up to $25 on purchasers of a semiautomatic assault rifle to offset costs of implementing the initiative;
• Provide that a person who fails to securely store a firearm would be guilty of a felony if a person who is legally ineligible to possess a firearm uses it to cause personal injury or death. The penalty would not apply in some situations, such as if the firearm was in a gun safe or other locked storage designed to prevent unauthorized use.
• Require firearm dealers to offer to sell or give purchasers a secure gun storage device or trigger lock, and to post warnings advising buyers of potential criminal prosecution for unsecured storage of firearms;
• Require development of a process to verify that people who have acquired pistols or semiautomatic assault rifles remain eligible to possess a firearm.
Supporters of I-1639 argue that:
• Assault weapons have been used in five of the last six school shootings, and 80 percent of school shooters obtained guns from their own home or that of a relative or friend. The initiative’s gun secure gun storage requirements will keep assault weapons out of the wrong hands;
• Background checks will keep weapons out of the hands of known criminals and people with mental illnesses;
• Soldiers in the U.S. military are required to be trained to handle firearms, yet current law allows anyone in Washington to buy an assault weapon without training or additional screening;
• Studies indicate that waiting periods for weapons purchases decrease homicides and suicides and other impulsive acts of violence;
• Raising the age to 21 for ownership of an assault weapon would bring Washington law in accord with laws in at least a dozen states. Shootings at Parkland, Sandy Hook and Columbine were perpetrated by people younger than 21.
Opponents of I-1639 argue that:
• Requiring gun owners to lock up their firearms or face possible criminal charges means that the weapons would not be accessible for self-defense in an emergency. The U.S. Supreme invalidated a similar gun storage law;
• Waiting periods assume gun purchasers have mental illness or impulse control problems;
• Washington’s 18-20-year-old residents are allowed to vote, purchase a home or serve in the military, but I-1639 would prevent them from purchasing a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle;
• Background checks are ineffective because illegal gun dealers do not use them, and guns can be acquired through private transfer;
• Handguns, not rifles, are used in the majority of crimes committed using a firearm in Washington. I-1639 targets all semiautomatic rifles, including hunting rifles and target shooting rifles that are used for self-defense and hunting.