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Background check battle heats; Connecticut shows future desires of anti-gunners

You can't buy or sell this on Craigslist, and an illicit transaction on the street will not involved a background check.
You can't buy or sell this on Craigslist, and an illicit transaction on the street will not involved a background check.
Dave Workman

Washington’s “universal background check” battle has warmed up with the usual rhetoric, and an arrest last night in Wednesday’s fatal White Center shooting shows what is wrong with the push for such checks, while a look at what’s happening in Connecticut shows where gun prohibitionists want to take the Evergreen State.

The King County Sheriff’s office reported that major crimes detectives arrested an 18-year-old Seatac man in connection with the deadly shooting that killed a 17-year-old sitting in a car. A press release from the agency said no other suspects are being sought.

Under Washington State law, an 18-year-old would not be able to legally carry a concealed handgun. He certainly would not be able to purchase one legally, and it’s a safe bet that if the fellow currently in custody is responsible, he did not go through a background check and never would.

Ditto the kid who is now charged in last month’s slaying in the Greenwood district of North Seattle.

But backers of Initiative 594 seem reluctant or unable to discuss this little problem with their proposed law. Instead, the Rev. Sandy Brown from Seattle’s First United Methodist Church declared that they want to change the state’s gun laws. Many in the firearms community are convinced that if I-594 — the 18-page gun control measure touted as a “universal background check” proposal — passes, it will open the door to the kind of law now causing trouble in Connecticut. That kind of law, gun owners believe, is really what the well-financed anti-gunners want for Washington.

The NBC affiliate in Hartford reported yesterday that, “Starting April 1, gun buyers will be required to apply for a certificate from the state before purchasing any long gun from either a licensed or private seller. State Police warn it could add weeks if not months to what was a two week process.”

A spokesman for the Connecticut State Police told the news agency that people with handgun permits are essentially grandfathered in, but now the law extends to the “private purchase or transfer” of a shotgun or rifle. And for that, gun buyers will need to get the police certificate, which — one might argue — is just one or two steps beyond what would be required under a so-called “universal background check.”

Any transfer, not just a sale, of a gun would require a background check, with limited exceptions for immediate family members. But loan a firearm to a buddy for a few days to go hunting, and a background check will be required, I-594 opponents say. Likewise, a second check might be required when the gun is returned. It’s a transfer, after all.

Something else came up during Thursday’s media event. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, quoted at, told the small audience, “You can buy a gun from Craigslist, you can buy a gun out of the trunk of a car, you can buy a gun on the street with no questions asked.”

According to Craigslist, you cannot buy a gun via that forum. It’s in their rules. Craigslist specifically prohibits the sale of:

  • weapons; firearms/guns and components; BB/pellet, stun, and spear guns; etc
  • ammunition, clips, cartridges, reloading materials, gunpowder, fireworks, explosives

As for sales out of a car trunk or on the street, people engaged in that sort of firearms commerce are not going to bother with background checks, and everybody knows it.

Seattle Times readers for the past two days have been engaged in a spirited debate about the initiative. Likewise, there have been some interesting reactions to the Seattle coverage.

Connecticut’s situation should be a tipoff about where the backers of I-594 want to take their next step, requiring permission from police before exercising a constitutionally protected, fundamental civil right. So-called “universal background checks” are but the proverbial “first step” and as this column noted, even backers acknowledge they won’t stop all violent crimes.

This leaves gun owners wondering what gun control proponents are really after, and the specter of Connecticut raises its ugly head.


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