The Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a billionaire-backed gun prohibition lobbying group, is out with its annual report for 2019 in which it touts passage of “a record 10 gun violence prevention priority policies passed in Olympia.”
But have these new laws accomplished anything besides inconvenience for law-abiding gun owners?
A check of crime statistics might be a good place to find the answer. According to the annual FBI Uniform Crime Reports dating back to 2015, Washington’s homicide numbers haven’t changed that much, and for the years of 2016-2018—the most recent year for which data is available—murder numbers have actually been going up.
Back in 2014, the Alliance pushed through Initiative 594, a so-called “universal background check” requirement. In 2015, the first full year following that electoral victory, there were 209 slayings in the state of which 141 were committed with firearms. The next year, the number dropped to 195 murders including 127 involving guns.
However, in 2017, there were 228 killings, including 134 in which a firearm was used and in 2018, the number crept upward again, to 232 homicides, of which 138 involved guns.
In 2016, the state experienced two high-profile multiple-victim shootings. One was a teen party in Mukilteo—a community between Seattle and Everett—in which three people were killed and the murderer legally purchased the rifle used, a Ruger AR-15 variation. He passed a background check because of his prior clean record, so the law didn’t prevent that tragedy.
Three months later, another young man murdered five people at the Cascade Mall in Burlington. He skirted the background check requirement by taking, without permission, a rifle from, his step-father’s house. The two incidents created an anomaly in the FBI data.
I-594 didn’t prevent either crime, or any of the other violent crimes that have occurred over the past five years, including the June 20 murder of a 19-year-old man in Seattle’s “CHOP” zone and the serious wounding of two other people in the same vicinity over the following 72 hours.
In 2018, the Alliance once again relied on the deep pockets of its elitist supporters to push through Initiative 1639, which is being challenged in U.S. District Court on federal constitutional grounds. Crime data for 2019 will not be available from the FBI until late September.
I-1639 was the Alliance’s response to Mukilteo and Burlington. As passed, it prohibits young adults ages 18-20 from purchasing any kind of semiautomatic rifle, including .22-caliber target and small game hunting rifles. Once again, anti-gunners penalized all law-abiding citizens because of the heinous acts of two criminals.
I-1639 was aimed at making it more difficult to purchase and own semiautomatic modern sporting rifles, erroneously classified as “semiautomatic assault rifles” by the initiative language. Those over age 21 must show proof that they have taken a firearms safety course within the previous five years. They must endure a 10-day waiting period and a so-called “enhanced background check.”
But a look at the FBI data once again suggests this was more about flash than substance because rifles of any kind are used in a fraction of all murders, in Washington State or across the country.
For example, in 2018, only two of the aforementioned 138 firearm-related slayings is known to have involved a rifle, according to the FBI data. The previous year, only one homicide definitely involved a rifle.
Ratcheting down on a firearm type that is involved in a handful of crimes only accomplishes a headline, say critics, who argue that all of these new gun laws affect the wrong people.
Criminals don’t obey them any more than they obey the laws against armed robbery, assault and murder. Passing more such laws will not get them to suddenly reform.
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