Washington Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases, Initiative 594 (2014)
- 1 Text of measure
- 2 Background
- 3 Support
- 4 Opposition
- 5 Media editorial positions
- 6 Polls
- 7 Path to the ballot
- 8 Related measures
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 Additional reading
- 12 References
If approved by voters, the measure would require background checks to be run on every person purchasing a gun in the state of Washington, even those who are doing so via private sales. However, transfers of antique guns and those between immediate family members would be exempt from the background checks. The measure also requires that dealers who are facilitating gun transfers, be they through the licensed dealer or a private seller, receive confirmation in writing from the chief of police or sheriff that the purchaser in question "is eligible to possess a pistol [...] and that the application to purchase is approved by the chief of police or sheriff." Furthermore, the initiative would render it illegal to hand off a firearm to people outside a person's immediate family, though exceptions are mentioned, including situations in which people are at a shooting range or hunting.
Text of measure
The certified ballot title reads as follows:
|“||This measure would apply currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.
Should this measure be enacted into law?
[ ] Yes
[ ] No 
The ballot summary reads as follows:
|“||The Law As It Presently Exists
Both state and federal laws require that certain sellers of firearms conduct background checks of buyers before selling firearms to determine whether the buyer can legally possess a firearm. Washington law makes it illegal for convicted felons to possess firearms. It also makes it illegal for certain others to possess firearms, including people who: (1) have been convicted of certain misdemeanors; (2) have been issued certain types of restraining orders; (3) have been found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity; (4) have been found mentally incompetent; or (5) have certain criminal charges pending. It is a felony to deliver any firearm to any person reasonably believed to be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm.
State laws governing background checks vary from state to state. In Washington, a background check is only required to buy a pistol, and only if the seller is a firearms dealer. Washington law also provides an exception to the background check requirement for certain sales of pistols from dealers. If the buyer has already been issued a concealed pistol license, then no further background check is required. Also, a firearms dealer can complete a sale if the sheriff or police chief fails to provide the results of a background check within five business days. That five day period can be extended if the buyer does not have a valid permanent Washington driver’s license or identification card, or has lived in Washington for less than ninety days.
Washington law allows Washington residents to buy rifles and shotguns in other states. And it allows residents of other states to buy rifles and shotguns in Washington. In both cases, the sale must comply with federal law. The sale must also be legal under the laws of both Washington and the other state.
Federal law also requires background checks on potential buyers of firearms. This federal requirement applies only when the seller is a firearms dealer. Unlike Washington law, the federal requirement applies to all types of firearms, not just pistols. Federal law does not require a background check if the buyer holds a concealed pistol license. Also, federal law allows a firearms dealer to complete a sale if the results of a background check are not returned within three business days.
Washington’s sales tax and use tax generally apply to sales of firearms. Sales tax does not apply to casual and isolated sales by sellers who are not engaged in business. This means, for example, that a sale of a firearm by a private individual who is not engaged in business is not subject to sales tax. Sales by firearms dealers or other businesses are subject to tax.
The Effect Of The Proposed Measure If Approved
This measure would apply the background check requirements currently used for firearm sales by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers where at least one party is in Washington. Background checks would thus be required not only for sales and transfers of firearms through firearms dealers, but also at gun shows, online, and between unlicensed private individuals. Background checks would be required for any sale or transfer of a firearm, whether for money or as a gift or loan, with specific exceptions described below. Background checks would be required whether the firearm involved is a pistol or another type of firearm. Violations of these requirements would be crimes.
The measure would establish a number of exceptions to the background check requirement. A background check would not be required to transfer a firearm by gift between family members. The background check requirement also would not apply to the sale or transfer of antique firearms. It also would not apply to certain temporary transfers of a firearm when needed to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. Background checks would not be required for certain public agencies or officers acting in their official capacity, including law enforcement or corrections agencies or officers, members of the military, and federal officials. Federally licensed gunsmiths who receive firearms solely to service or repair them would not be required to undergo background checks.
Certain other temporary transfers of a firearm would also not require a background check. These include temporary transfers between spouses, and temporary transfers for use at a shooting range, in a competition, or for performances. A temporary transfer to a person under age eighteen for hunting, sporting, or education would not require a background check. Other temporary transfers for lawful hunting also would not require a background check.
A person who inherited a firearm other than a pistol upon the death of its former owner would not be required to undergo a background check. A person who inherited a pistol would either have to lawfully transfer the pistol within 60 days or inform the department of licensing that he or she intended to keep the pistol.
Firearms could only be sold or transferred through licensed firearms dealers. If neither party to the sale or transfer of a firearm was a firearms dealer, then a firearms dealer would have to assist in the sale or transfer. Before a sale or transfer could be completed, a firearms dealer would perform the background check on the buyer or recipient of the firearm. If the background check determined that the buyer or recipient of the firearm was ineligible to possess a firearm, the firearms dealer would return the firearm to the seller or transferor. The firearms dealer could charge a fee for these services.
Firearms dealers could not deliver any firearm to a buyer or recipient until receiving background check results showing that the buyer or recipient can legally possess the firearm. But a firearms dealer could deliver a firearm if background check results were not received within ten business days (as opposed to the five business days currently allowed to conduct the check). If the buyer or recipient did not have a valid permanent Washington driver’s license or identification card, or had been a Washington resident for less than 90 days, then the time period for delivery of a pistol would be extended from ten days to 60 days, the same as under current law.
If a firearms dealer violates this measure, his or her license could be revoked. The violation would also be reported to federal authorities.
Sales tax would not apply to the sale or transfer of firearms between people who are not licensed firearms dealers, so long as they comply with all background check requirements. Using a licensed firearms dealer to assist with such sales or transfers would not result in sales or use tax. 
The fiscal impact statement reads as follows:
|“||Initiative 594 is expected to have minimal impact on state and local revenues. The net change cannot be estimated because the impact depends upon optional fees that may be charged by licensed firearms dealers. State expenditures for the Department of Licensing may total an estimated $921,000 over the next five years, which includes one-time implementation costs, ongoing expenses related to complying with current state pistol transfer laws and new license oversight requirements. State expenditures for enforcing the measure are estimated to be less than $50,000 per year. Local government expenditures are estimated to be less than $50,000 per year.||”|
Currently, background checks in Washington state are required only for sales by licensed firearm dealers. Therefore, background checks do not apply to private gun sales. Opponents to I-594 filed a competing initiative, I-591, which seeks to prevent the government from confiscating firearms without due process and implementing background checks deemed more stringent than those at the federal level.
- See also: A full list of I-594 supporters
Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility is leading the campaign in support of the initiative.
- Sergeant Dave Hoover
- King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg (Republican)
- Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe (Democrat)
- Regina Malveaux, Executive Director of the YWCA of Spokane
- Bill Hanson, former Executive Director, Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs and former President, Washington State Patrol Troopers’ Association
- Don Pierce, former Bellingham Chief of Police
- Assistant Chief Nick Metz, Seattle Police Department
- Former Thurston County Sheriff Dan Kimball
- Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility
- Washington Cease Fire
- United Methodist Church
- Faith Action Network
- Jewish Council for Public Affairs
- Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center
- Washington State Catholic Conference
- Everytown for Gun Safety
- Sammamish City Council
- Kirkland City Council
According to the official supporting group, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility:
|“||There is a hole in our laws that allow criminals and other dangerous people to go to “private sellers” at gun shows, on the Internet, and elsewhere to buy guns with no background check and no questions asked. Law enforcement agencies and public safety officials agree that this loophole promotes illegal gun trafficking and enables individuals with criminal intent to purchase firearms. This initiative will simply ensure that a background check is conducted for every gun purchase.||”|
—Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, 
According to a report published by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that supports I-594:
|“||Everytown for Gun Safety released a new analysis of FBI data showing that the federal background check system is working in Washington State, blocking more than 40,000 gun sales to prohibited purchasers since 1998 including at least 24,000 gun sales to felons and more than 6,000 gun sales to domestic abusers. Everytown’s analysis also shows that the share of denied gun purchases fell by half between 2000 and 2013, suggesting that criminals may be seeking guns from unlicensed sellers—such as in transactions online, at gun shows and even in parking lots from strangers—to evade background checks. Initiative 594, the Washington State ballot measure to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, would close the background check loophole that allows these prohibited purchasers to get their hands on guns.||”|
—Everytown for Gun Safety, 
Below are arguments in support of I-594 provided in the state's official voter guide. The arguments were prepared by Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecutor, Republican; Mark Roe, Snohomish County Prosecutor, Democrat; John Lovick, Snohomish County Executive, former Snohomish County Sheriff; Faith Ireland, retired State Supreme Court Justice; Cheryl Stumbo, Jewish Federation Shooting Survivor; Robert Brauer, Lifetime Member of NRA, Gun Owner:
|“||Initiative 594 will ensure everyone in Washington State passes the same background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from.
Initiative 594: Criminal Background Checks Save Lives
Criminal background checks reduce access to guns for criminals, domestic abusers and people with severe mental illnesses. But current law only requires background checks for gun sales at licensed dealers. This means that anyone - including dangerous criminals - can purchase guns at gun shows or online with no background check. 594 closes this loophole by requiring all gun sales - including those at gun shows or over the internet – go through a criminal background check.
Initiative 594: Simple and Effective
594 prevents dangerous people from having easy access to guns. It strengthens existing law by ensuring private gun sales go through the same process people use when buying from a licensed gun dealer. Since its inception, the background check system has blocked 2.2 million gun sales to prohibited people. In states that require background checks on all gun sales, 38% fewer women are shot to death by their partners and 39% fewer police officers are killed with handguns.
Initiative 594: Reasonable Exceptions
Gifts between family members, antique sales, and loans for self-defense, hunting or sporting are exempt from background checks.
Initiative 594: Broad Support
Endorsed by law enforcement officers, Republican and Democratic prosecutors, League of Women Voters of Washington, National Physicians Alliance Washington Chapter, Washington Federation of Teachers and newspapers across the state.
Rebuttal of Argument Against
Initiative 594 is simple: it applies the existing background check system to all gun sales - including at gun shows or over the internet where criminals can easily get guns. We know background checks work; states with similar laws see fewer domestic violence murders and fewer police officers killed. 594 is supported by gun owners and contains clear exemptions for law enforcement, family members, hunting and self-defense. It is supported by a statewide bipartisan coalition. 
—Dan Satterberg, Mark Roe, John Lovick, Faith Ireland, Cheryl Stumbo & Robert Brauer, 
- Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs
- Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor Association (WSLEFIA)
- National Rifle Association (NRA)
- National Rifle Association of America Washingtonians Opposed to I-594
- The largest law enforcement organization in the state, the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS), opposes the initiative. Stated reasons include:
- 1) That WACOPS, as an organization of law enforcement officers, does not believe that I-594 will keep guns out of the hands of the criminal or the mentally ill. WACOPS believes such persons will continue to ignore the law and engage in black market transactions.
- 2) That responsibility for enforcing this law – conducting background checks, investigating and arresting citizens who do not comply – will fall on law enforcement, diverting already scarce resources.
- 3) That the restrictive compliance measures for transfers and loans of guns will cause law abiding citizens to unintentionally commit crimes and possibly be convicted of gross misdemeanors or felonies.
- 4) That debate exists whether I-594 would create a registry of guns and that WACOPS holds that if it does not, the background check is useless for enforcement – and that if it does, it is an infringement on the privacy rights of gun owners.
- The Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor Association (WSLEFIA) opposes the initiative, stating that I-594 "is a law that will be impossible to police, intended to criminalize only good citizens, a costly misdirection of scarce LE resources and funds, and a statute so broadly written that many of your own activities will become crimes."
- The National Rifle Association (NRA) has created a separate political committee, called the National Rifle Association of America Washingtonians Opposed to I-594. The NRA opposes this initiative, focusing on the wide reach of the criminalization of firearm transfers without a background check, pointing out that it would undermine gun safety training.
A Vote No on 594 advertisement, titled "I 594 Will Not Make Washington Safer."
According to analysis by several organizations opposed to I-594, including the NRA-ILA, the initiative applies to not just firearms purchases, but also to any transfer, which is defined as "the intended delivery of a firearm to another person without consideration of payment or promise of payment including, but not limited to, gifts and loans." This applies to any change of possession, such as for safekeeping, hunting, loan, recreational sharing, safety training, coaching, transport, etc. If the initiative passes, numerous scenarios will require a background check through a licensed firearms dealer before the temporary transfer can take place:
- Firearms safety training outside the confines of a shooting range.
- Handling of any firearm on private property by anyone other than the owner, even if under the owner's supervision.
- Sharing firearms while shooting on private property or public land where shooting is allowed.
- Loaning a firearm for hunting, if not in the field with the same hunting party.
Below are arguments in opposition to I-594 provided in the state's official voter guide. The arguments were prepared by Craig Bulkley, President, Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS); Christopher Hurst, State Representative, Democrat, 25-year veteran Police Commander; Mark Pidgeon, President, Hunters Heritage Council; Alan Gottlieb, Founder, Second Amendment Foundation; Anette Wachter, Member, Medal Winner, United States National Rifle Team; Ozzie Knezovich, Sheriff, Spokane County.
Rank and file law enforcement oppose 594
Initiative 594 is an unfunded mandate that diverts scarce law enforcement resources away from keeping violent criminals off our streets making us all less safe. Do you want sex offenders released from crowded prisons to make room for people convicted of family-firearm transfer violations?
594 is 18 pages of costly and confusing regulatory excess
594 is punitive to lawful firearms owners. Proponents want you to “pass it so you can find out what’s in it.” Before you vote, consult your attorney to see how it criminalizes your behavior. Want to lend your sister-in-law a gun to protect herself? Want to loan your adult sons shotguns to go hunting? 594 makes you a criminal! A police officer who loans a personal firearm to a fellow officer would face criminal prosecution.
Criminals will violate 594 like they break other laws
Criminals will still acquire firearms where they do now: the black market, straw purchasers, theft and illicit sources like drug dealers. 594 creates a “universal” government database of all lawful handgun owners. We deserve the protection of a well-written background check law that protects the right of privacy for lawful firearms owners.
Don’t be fooled by emotional and false statements
We all want guns out of the hands of violent criminals and the dangerously unstable who are a threat to people like us. But this is not the way to do it. You can’t change criminal behavior by criminalizing lawful behavior.
Rebuttal of Argument For
Dishonesty! Bait and switch! 594 is not just about gun sales. It regulates transfers, defined so broadly that virtually every time a firearm changes hands it is subject to bureaucracy, fees, taxes and registration. Exceptions are drafted so narrowly they’re meaningless. 594 will not prevent crime as proponents claim; rarely are criminals prosecuted. 594 is “feel good” legislation that doesn’t help law enforcement. 594 is a poorly-written, unfunded mandate. Visit our website for details.
—Craig Bulkley, Christopher Hurst, Mark Pidgeon, Alan Gottlieb, Anette Wachter & Ozzie Knezovich, 
Media editorial positions
- The Herald said,
|“||Initiative 594 is a straightforward measure to extend existing criminal background checks to all private firearm transfers and sales. It does not place an unreasonable burden on gun-show participants or online merchants, nor does it diminish the Second Amendment.
While not a panacea to gun violence in Washington, I-594 will limit the number of wife beaters, felons and people with serious mental illness from obtaining a gun. That may not align with the personal interests of many felons and domestic abusers, mind you, but it is in the public interest. Washingtonians should vote for I-594.
- The News Tribune said,
|“||Initiatives 594 and 591 on the November ballot ask a simple question: Do you like background checks for firearms sales?
If you do, vote for I-594 and against I-591. That’s what we recommend. We can’t think of one good reason not to screen gun-seekers for criminal records and severe mental illnesses.
—News Tribune, 
- The Olympian said,
|“||Initiative 594 does not create a statewide gun registry. It makes no change to existing hunting laws. It doesn’t prohibit someone from handing a firearm to another person, at a training range or when target shooting on your property. It makes no onerous requirement on people who inherit guns.
In no way does I-594 diminish the Second Amendment.
But I-594 will reduce crime and save lives. In states that already go beyond federal law and require background checks on private handgun sales, the fatal shooting of law enforcement officers has dropped by 39 percent. The number of women killed in domestic disputes declined by 48 percent. The gun suicide rate is 49 percent lower.
Stand up and shout yes on I-594, and an emphatic no on I-591.
- The Spokesman-Review said,
|“||Initiative 591 would maintain the status quo, meaning the state could not go beyond federal law, which requires checks only on gun sales at licensed stores. Proponents tout this as “uniformity,” but they’d be against Congress passing a law to match Washington’s if I-594 were to pass.
If you’re confused as to why proponents don’t simply run a “No on I-594” campaign, well, that’s the point. A yes vote on both would probably nullify I-594. The last time there were two competing initiatives (related to medical malpractice) voters turned down both. That would be fine with I-591 backers.
Don’t be taken in. Vote yes on I-594 and no on I-591. It’s the only combination of votes that will expand background checks and help deter the sale of weapons to people who, by law, should not have them.
- The Skanner said,
|“||This is a baby step for an issue that has torn communities apart for years. We vote YES.||”|
- The Tri-City Herald said,
|“||No one believes I-594 will stop a criminal intent on obtaining a gun from getting one. It also won’t stop every mentally unstable person from a shooting rampage.
That is one of the reasons the Washington Council of Police oppose I-594. Their leadership says it would add more work for law enforcement agencies and criminals will still get guns on the black market.
Nobody likes the idea of criminals getting guns through their computer. However, I-594 is not the answer. 
—Tri-City Herald, 
- The Yakima Herald said,
|“||Initiative 594 has technical problems in its wording and unintended consequences, and Initiative 591 is fundamentally the wrong approach. For those reasons, the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board urges a no vote on both Initiative 594 and Initiative 591...Initiative 594 goes too far in one direction, and Initiative 591 heads down a different and a totally misguided path. Current state law is preferable to either of these choices, which makes voting no on both the right choice.||”|
—Yakima Herald, 
- See also: Polls, 2014 ballot measures
|Washington Initiative 594 (2014)|
|Poll||Support||Oppose||Undecided||Margin of Error||Sample Size|
4/9/2014 - 4/13/2014
10/6/2014 - 10/9/2014
|Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to|
Path to the ballot
In order to qualify for the November 2014 ballot, supporters were required to submit a minimum of 246,372 valid signatures by January 3, 2014. According to Washington law, the number of signatures required to land a measure on the ballot must be equal to or greater than 8 percent of the number of votes cast for the office of governor in the most recent previous election.
According to the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the organization has collected 275,362 as of October 31, 2013.Cite error: Invalid
invalid names, e.g. too many
- Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility
- Background Check Facts: Telling the Truth about Initiative 594
- Kirotv.com, "Washington voters will be asked to approve stiffer gun controls," April 28, 2013
- Washington Secretary of State, "Proposed Initiatives to the Legislature - 2013: 594," accessed July 24, 2013
- Washington Secretary of State, "Online Voters' Guide 2014 General Election," accessed September 29, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- The Seattle Times, "Wording of gun-related ballot measure finalized after court fight," July 15, 2013
- The Columbian, "Gun-rights activists take aim at 2014 ballot," June 20, 2013
- Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, "Homepage," accessed May 12, 2014
- Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, "About," accessed September 30, 2014
- The Spokesman-Review, "Initiative 594: Voting yes will close background-check loophole for gun buyers," September 20, 2014
- Washington State Catholic Conference, "Statement supporting Initiative 594," December 2, 2013
- Everytown for Gun Safety, "NEW ANALYSIS OF FBI DATA SHOWS FEDERAL BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEM WORKS IN WASHINGTON STATE: MORE THAN 40,000 GUN SALES BLOCKED TO PROHIBITED PURCHASERS, INCLUDING 24,000 SALES TO FELONS AND MORE THAN 6,000 SALES TO DOMESTIC ABUSERS," August 21, 2014
- Sammamish Review, "Sammamish City Council passes resolution to support gun-safety initiative," October 14, 2014
- Kirkland Reporter, "Kirkland City Council adopts resolutions in favor of I-594; in opposition of I-591," October 14, 2014
- Voters' Guide: 2014 General Election, "Initiative Measure No. 594," accessed September 30, 2014
- Examiner, "WACOPS votes to oppose gun control initiative, back I-591," June 30, 2014
- Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor Association, "In Harm’s Way—I594 & Law Enforcement"
- KOMO News, "Money starts to flow in for gun initiatives," Aug 17, 2014
- Washington Association Of Police and Sheriffs, "Vote of June 27, 2014," June 27, 2014
- NRA-ILA, "How Michael Bloomberg Is Twisting The Gun Control Debate In The Evergreen State Washing-con," August 18, 2014
- Herald, "Vote yes on I-594, no on I-591," October 3, 2014
- News Tribune, "Vote yes on I-594 - to help keep guns from criminals," October 8, 2014
- Olympian, "Save lives: vote yes on I-594, no on I-591," October 14, 2014
- Spokesman-Review Spokesman-Review, "Editorial: Expand checks on gun sales: Vote yes on 594, no on 591," October 16, 2014
- Skanner, "The Skanner News Elections Endorsements: Support These Measures on the Nov. 4 Ballot," October 16, 2014
- Tri-City Herald, "Our Voice:Herald recommends no on I-591 and I-594," October 8, 2014
- Yakima Herald, "Say no to both gun-related ballot measures," October 16, 2014
State of Washington
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | State Auditor | Superintendent of Public Instruction | Commissioner of Insurance | Director of Agriculture | Commissioner of Public Lands | Director of Labor and Industries | Chairman of Utilities and Transportation |