There are so many issues with 594 that it needs to go down, hard. It makes becoming a felon way too easy, under the guise of "universal background checks for gun sales in Washington State." The initiative doesn't apply only to sales, but transfers, defined in the initiative as the following:
> (25) "Transfer" means 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.
And the law makes transfers, even those that aren't sales, illegal:
> All firearm sales or transfers, in whole or part in this state including without limitation a sale or transfer where either the purchaser or seller or transferee or transferor is in Washington, shall be subject to background checks unless specifically exempted by state or federal law. ...
The only exceptions are as follows. Note that I summarize where I can, but use the actual legal text in a couple cases for reasons that I'll explain after: 1) immediate family members that are gifts; 2) antique firearms; 3) temporary transfers to a non-prohibited person that occur during threat of imminent death or great bodily harm; 4) law enforcement/corrections agencies and law enforcement/corrections officers, US marshals, members of the armed forces or national guard, and federal officials; 5) to and from federally licensed gunsmiths for the purpose of service or repair; 6) temporary transfers between a) spouses and domestic partners, b) "if the temporary transfer occurs, and the firearm is kept at all times, at an established shooting range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range is located" c) "if the temporary transfer occurs and the transferee's possession of the firearm is exclusively at a lawful organized competition involving the use of a firearm, or while participating in or practicing for a performance by an organized group that uses firearms as a part of the performance" d) to someone under eighteen for lawful hunting, sporting, or educational purposes while they're under adult supervision, e) "while hunting if the hunting is legal in all places where the person to whom the firearm is transferred possesses the firearm and the person to whom the firearm is transferred has completed all training and holds all licenses or permits required for such hunting".
There are a number of problems with the exemptions as written, and I cannot help but think these are intentional.
Under 1), you cannot loan a firearm to an immediate family member. You may only gift it to them. Brother/sister wants to join your dad/mom to go shooting, but both are visiting you and you can't go with them due to other commitments? Disallowed without paying for a transfer each direction.
The provisions of 3) seem good, until you get to the part about non-prohibited person. Since it's the person doing the transfer that would get in trouble, you would have to know all possible reasons that person would be prohibited, about anyone who you might need to help in such a situation. It flies in the face of [established case law](http://courts.mrsc.org/mc/courts/zappell…
), which holds that "the statute does not address the unforeseen and sudden situation when an individual is threatened with impending danger. Certainly, the Legislature did not intend for a person threatened with immediate harm to succumb to an attacker rather than act in self-defense. A number of jurisdictions support this view" - yet this legislation acts in entirely the opposite manner.
Number 4) has some interesting implications (an off-duty officer loaning a pistol to an on-duty one for whatever reason), but let's be honest - the cops aren't going to get charged.
At first I thought 6b) was good, but then I re-read it and the surrounding clauses, and realized the word games being played. It's been claimed by those in support of 594 that loaning a firearm for use at a range is allowed, but that's not what the law says. As worded, that section appears to _only_ apply to the firearms that are range rental guns. Note that it says "and the firearm is kept at all times", compared to the following part which states "and the transferee's possession of a firearm is exclusively at". The only guns you are likely to be transferring between people that are kept at a range at all times are those which are owned by the range. So much for "you can still take your friends shooting." Not to mention the other places where you would be doing recreational shooting at a place that isn't "an established shooting range authorized by the governing body..." I have friends who live on large plots of land and we shoot in their backyard. Other times, I go out into "gravel pits" - outdoor shooting areas with good backstops where a group of people can meet up and have an outdoor recreation day. It's super common to try other people's firearms there, but that's not legal. Weirdly, it's fine if you let someone under 18 use the gun for that purpose, just not anyone over 18.
The "all places" clause in 6e) also causes issues. If you are hiking to go high-country hunting with a friend who will be using your rifle, you cannot legally hand them the rifle until you are fully in the area where hunting is legal.
Cases that aren't covered yet I've seen or personally encountered, which can cause legal problems or are asinine:
* Demonstrating firearms safety at home, including teaching load/unload procedure (with snap caps), properly holding a firearm, aiming, etc.
* Going to a courthouse or other such building that has a "firearms check" where the person on duty is a private contractor (whether a cop who is off duty but working another job or just a third party company)
* Issues around constructive possession if someone you live with but aren't married to/in a domestic partnership with has access to your firearms while you are away (either knowing the combination to the safe or where a gun is kept in the house outside a safe).
* Knowing you'll be out of town, leaving your firearms in the safe at a friend's house so that they aren't just left in yours while you're gone.
* While 594 exempts dealers from enforcing use tax requirements, it doesn't absolve transferring parties from having to pay them (it only exempts retail sales tax) or prove they have equivalent credit. With the related registration, I'm sure the DoR could make some peoples' lives miserable.
Beyond that, this initiative makes violation the first time a gross misdemeanor, and the second time a class C felony. Even if you were exempt under the law, you have to go to court if charged, because it's an affirmative defense that you met one of the section 4 reasons.
That's why I'm voting "no" on 594; it's a terribly written law that could have significant and tragic consequences both to me and others I care about.