The first criminal charge under a two-year-old Washington State “universal background check” law has sparked a debate over whether the voter-approved requirement actually is working, because a crime was still committed and a life was lost.
Almost a year after the slaying of 17-year-old John Skyler Johnson at his Oak Harbor residence, the Island County Prosecutor’s office filed a criminal charge against Mark Mercado, 26, according to published reports. He is alleged to have been the source of the firearm used in that crime, and he has now been charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm under provisions of Initiative 594, passed by voters in November 2014.
The hotly-contested measure was pushed by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility (AGR), a well-funded gun prohibition lobbying group based in Seattle. Supporters include Michael Bloomberg’s Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Bill and Melinda Gates and other wealthy elitists.
According to published reports, the gun in question has been identified as a .22-caliber Phoenix Arms semiautomatic pistol. It has not been recovered, and it may have been thrown into the saltwater off Whidbey Island.
Johnson was killed in November 2015. Four people have been sentenced in that case. Authorities allege that Mercado gave the pistol to then-19-year-old David Nunez, without the required background check. That may be a moot point, however, since under federal law, no licensed firearms dealer could do a transfer of a handgun to anyone under age 21.
But now, according to the Northwest News Network, an AGR official is claiming that the gun control measure is “actually keeping and preventing guns from getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.” Opponents of the initiative could easily say that statement is demonstrably false, because the law did not prevent a gun from getting into the wrong hands in this case. Johnson was apparently murdered with the firearm in question.
The same could easily be said about another recent tragic shooting, at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, in nearby Skagit County. In that case, the suspect apparently tried to buy a handgun at a local gun shop but when told he would have to submit to a background check, he left the store without a gun. Later the same day, he showed up at the mall with a .22-caliber rifle and fatally shot five people. That gun apparently was taken from the suspect’s step-father without his permission.
I-594 didn’t prevent that suspected shooter from getting a firearm, either.
Writing at MyNorthwest.com, KIRO talk host Jason Rantz today observes, “I-594 doesn’t prevent bad guys from getting guns. It doesn’t force someone to conduct a background check. Indeed, Mercado allegedly transferred someone a gun without a background check. How’d he do that under I-594? This was supposed to be outlawed!
“The law simply offers a mechanism to punish someone who doesn’t commit a background check. It doesn’t prevent it,” he continued. “Yet, the way it was sold was to fool you into thinking somehow as a result of this law, bad guys will suddenly be scared into following the law. It was a dishonest sell.”