Initiative 1639 addresses the root causes of many recent mass shooting by:
- Raising the age to purchase semi-automatic assault rifles to 21.
- Creating an enhanced background check for semi-automatic assault rifles, similar to what is required for handguns. This includes a local law enforcement check of the most up-to-date local court, criminal, and mental health records; a 10-day waiting period; and the completion of a firearm safety training course within the last five years.
- Requiring completion of a firearm safety training course within the last five years. The training would include basic safety and secure storage rules, safe handling, and an overview of state and federal firearms laws.
- Creating standards for Dangerous Access Prevention. These standards hold gun owners accountable if a child or other prohibited person accesses and uses an unsecurely stored firearm to hurt themselves or someone else.
Semi-automatic assault rifles are designed to kill as many people as possible in a matter of seconds. In mass shootings where such weapons are used, 135% more people are shot and 57% more are killed. For example, the Las Vegas shooter was able to kill 58 people and injure an additional 500 in a matter of seconds. Because these guns are so lethal, putting commonsense measures in place to ensure they don’t fall into dangerous hands is an evidence-based approach to reducing gun violence.
Raising the age to purchase from 18 to 21 to match our rules for handguns just makes sense. Studies show that people 18 to 21 years of age commit a disproportionate number of firearm homicides in the United States. We know from research that the brain does not fully mature until a later age, especially the part of the brain responsible for decision making, risk assessment, and impulse control.
Initiative 1639 defines semi-automatic assault rifles based on their function. The legal definition is: “Any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge” It does not include antique firearms, any firearm that has been made permanently inoperable, or any firearm that is manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action.” When semi-automatic assault rifles, like AR-15s, are used in shootings, 57% more people are killed and 135% more people are injured.
Local law enforcement checks the most up-to-date court, criminal, and mental health databases to ensure someone on the prohibited purchaser list (for a number of reasons) is not allowed to purchase a gun. The 10-day waiting period ensures these comprehensive checks are completed in full.
Current law requires a local law enforcement background check, which can take up to ten days, before purchases on ALL handguns. Initiative 1639 would require a ten-day waiting period before purchases of semi automatic assault rifles. There are over 200,000 purchases of these deadly firearms every year in Washington state. Law enforcement officials have stated, the ten-day waiting period is crucial for their offices to comply with the high volume of purchases they must run background checks on. In addition, their offices and extensive data prove that a “cooling off” period before firearm purchases reduces suicides and homicides.
Dangerous Access Prevention incentivizes secure storage by creating criminal liability, depending on the severity of the incident, if a child or other prohibited person accesses and uses an unsecurely stored firearm to hurt themselves or someone else. Research shows access to a firearm in a moment of crisis can be the difference between life and death. In the almost 20 years since Columbine, more than 200,000 students have experienced gun violence at school. In cases where the source of the gun could be determined, more than 80% of shooters brought them from their own home or from the home of friends or relatives, and seven-in-ten of these shooters were under 18.
Initiative 1639 is modeled on successful access prevention laws in other states and holds a person responsible for community endangerment, depending on the severity of the incident, if a child or other prohibited person accesses and uses an unsecurely stored firearm to hurt themselves or someone else. Research shows access to a firearm in a moment of crisis can be the difference between life and death. In the almost 20 years since Columbine, more than 200,000 students have experienced gun violence at school. In cases where the source of the gun could be determined, more than 80% of shooters brought them from their own home or from the home of friends or relatives, and seven-in-ten of these shooters were under 18.
No. I-1639 holds a gun owner responsible if they leave an unsafely stored firearm in a place where they knew, or reasonably should know, a child or prohibited person could access it and that person uses the gun to harm themselves or someone else. I-1639 also specifically says a person will not be held responsible if someone breaks into their home and steals their firearm so long as they report the theft within 5 days of knowing the gun was taken.
Initiative 1639 allows up to a $25 fee to be assessed on purchases of semiautomatic assault rifles. These funds will be used to ensure local and state law enforcement have the resources they need to run and process these background checks. Initiative 1639 does not permit this amount to be changed, nor does it permit any taxes on firearms.
Many states include a basic gun safety training requirement in order to purchase a firearm or to obtain a concealed pistols license. These laws help save lives by ensuring gun owners know how to safely handle and store firearms. Initiative 1639 would require proof of basic training in the last five years, ensuring that owners of more deadly firearms have a basic level of responsible gun ownership.
Current law incorporates language in a buyer’s application to purchase a handgun that allows local law enforcement to access the most up-to-date information regarding whether a person is prohibited from possessing a firearm because of an involuntary commitment. I-1639 extends the same background check requirements and application language that has been in place for decades for handguns, to semi-automatic assault rifles, in order to prevent someone in a time of crisis from gaining access to military grade assault rifles. No other medical information is waived before purchasing a firearm.
This is a first-of-its-kind gun responsibility policy modelled on background check processes we currently use in Washington for other firearms and on proven laws in other states. For example, Dangerous Access Prevention is built upon successful policies in Florida, California and 28 other states.
The campaign is led by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a coalition of concerned citizens and organizations working together to forge commonsense solutions to reduce gun violence. The Alliance has run two successful ballot initiatives in the past, Initiative 594, which expanded background checks, in 2014 and Extreme Risk Protection Orders in 2016, which passed with 59% and 69% of the vote, respectively.
The Initiative is supported by a broad coalition of Washingtonians. Supporters include law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, public health experts and mental health professionals, gun owners, students, teachers, parents, gun violence survivors, domestic violence advocates, and many others.
The Alliance for Gun Responsibility is running the campaign for Initiative 1639 with support from generous donors. We are continually fundraising and rely on the generosity of all levels of individual donors to support our efforts. Over the years, more than 20,000 people have donated to our cause with an average donation of under $50. If you would like to join them, you can make a donation here.
You can learn more about who has given to our campaign on the website of the Public Disclosure Commission, Washington state’s campaign finance agency. Our reports are linked here.