Targeting some claims on Initiative 594

James Olsen, candidate for Legislature in the 23rd Legislative District, challenged me to fact check one of his videos. Actually, he suggested two of them, but I’ve already addressed one and don’t believe it merits more attention. Mr. Olsen disagrees with me. That’s all I have to say about that.

The Olsen video I will address is his attempt to take down Initiative 594, which extends the rules for existing background check requirements for federally licensed gun dealers to gun shows and transactions between private individuals. It also has some restrictions about temporary transfers.

If you don’t like the message on Olsen’s video, available on YouTube, you have to enjoy the Golden Earring song “Twilight Zone” that provides the soundtrack. Band members might not agree with Olsen, but I’m sure they appreciate the attention. We could start a pool to find out whether and when a Content ID claim will mute the entire video.

OLSEN The entire program and support of I-594 is based on dishonesty and obfuscation. Consider the following facts:
Claim: I-594 is a simple measure to ensure that a background check is done on every gun purchase.
Fact: No 18-page law is simple. I-594 is classic bait and switch pushing a handgun registration mandate disguised as “a simple background check.”

KITSAP CAUCUS If anyone is saying the initiative is just about background checks, that doesn’t seem factually correct, because there are rules regarding loans and gifts, too. Conceptually the proposal is simple, but the initiative rewrites a law. To do that you have to include the law in the text of the legislation, indicating where the law will change. That takes 18 pages.

The new law would extend background checks to all private sales and transfers (the definition we’ll discuss later), unless you buy into Olsen’s claim that the background check is smoke and mirrors hiding a gun registry. The effect of a simple concept can be complex. The same can be said of I-591, a shorter initiative that would say Washington’s background check laws should be whatever the federal government is doing.

OLSEN Claim: I-594 proponents claim the initiative does not create a registry.
Fact: Not true. Every temporary transfer is subject to dealer regulation and completion of a pistol form for inclusion in state database.

KITSAP CAUCUS Olsen is wrong here, but in both cases you could argue that it’s on a technicality. They are important details.

The first problem is the use of the word, “create.” The initiative doesn’t create as much as it expands. Proponents argue that what the state has in place is not the same as a gun registry, but until I dug pretty deep I had trouble understanding the real difference between what the state does and what constitutes bona fide gun registration.

Part of that trouble comes from the debate on the federal level. The federal background check requirements prohibit the federal government from keeping records on sales once a check is completed. That’s not the case in Washington.

According to the state House bill report on the initiative legislation, the initiative does not “create” a registry, because handgun sales at dealers already requires the dealer to keep a record of the sale for six years and a copy of that record has to go to the Department of Licensing “which maintains this information in its firearms database.” The new law would require people purchasing pistols at gun shows, online or making other private transactions to have the sale recorded the same way, using the same database. You would have to process that sale through a licensed dealer. This is not “creation” of a database, but it does expand it. If you are opposed to the creation you’ll certainly be against the expansion, but the bill’s authors are correct in saying the legislation applies existing rules in more places.

Olsen’s use of “temporary transfer” is where opponents have spent a lot of time. I think the question on transfer was well addressed in Joseph O’Sullivan’s story in the Seattle Times, “Semantics triggers opposition to I-594’s gun sale checks.” The focus is on the word “transfer.” Proponents say the term is well established and is meant to cover occasions when someone trades a gun for something besides money.

Opponents have been making a case, such as in a flow chart making the rounds online, that even handing a gun to someone to look at it constitutes a transfer. That appears to be stretching the intent of the new law, but the new law would make loaning your gun more restrictive. You could not legally loan your gun to a friend to go hunting unless you also went on the trip, and even then there are restrictions opponents find onerous.

Other states have answered the “temporary” transfer question by including 72-hour or even 30-day exemptions, allowing you to loan a gun without getting a background check. Washington’s initiative does not provide for that.

Proponents argue law enforcement has discretion on enforcement and that in other locations where these kind of standards are in place law enforcement officers have never enforced the law in the way opponents are suggesting. So if you were to shooting on public land and loaned your gun to a friend to take a few shots, you would be OK. But again, that’s assuming law enforcement officials take a liberal view of “transfer.”

The final point made in the Times story is that if the law’s language creates unanticipated problems, the Legislature can tweak the law.

OLSEN Claim: I-594 includes reasonable exceptions.
Fact: Exceptions are drafted so ridiculously narrow as to be virtuously meaningless.

KITSAP CAUCUS This depends on your definition of “ridiculously narrow.” Under the legislation you can loan your gun to someone if it’s your spouse or domestic partner, you are at a shooting range, you or the other person are in a competition, you are over 18 and are giving it to someone under 18 who is being supervised by an adult while hunting and you are on the trip, sport-shooting or some other lawful purpose. You can also gift a gun to a family member, sell an antique, loan to someone who is under threat of bodily harm, loan to another cop or military member if you are also one of those and it’s related to the job. And you can inherit a gun without a background check, as long as it’s not a pistol. If it is a pistol you have 60 days to notify the state Department of Licensing that you plan to keep it.

OLSEN Claim: Criminals go to gun shows to buy guns with no background checks.
Fact: According to Department of Justice less than 1 percent of criminals obtain firearms at gun shows.

KITSAP CAUCUS Olsen is right on the stat. Proponents will counter that criminals look for any undetectable way to get guns, so that it’s in the state’s best interest to remove as many of those ways as possible.

OLSEN Claim: Private parties comply with a background check requirements would be exempt from sales tax.
Fact: Private sales would be subject to use tax that will give government the necessary tools to single out and collect more tax.

KITSAP CAUCUS No sales tax. Yes on the use tax. You can decide whether creating a new revenue stream was a motivator behind this law.

OLSEN The Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs voted on June 27, 2014 to oppose the 18-page I-594. The Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs voted to support Initiative 591.

KITSAP CAUCUS Correct on both accounts. Individual law enforcement officials have endorsed the legislation, but no groups. Part of the WACOPS opposition is that it will make otherwise law abiding citizens unwitting criminals. The organization is also concerned that the burden of enforcing the law will fall on police and sheriff’s deputies, with no extra funding to do it. They also argue it won’t keep guns out of the hands of criminals or the mentally ill.

Here are a few more thoughts and details.

If a person knowingly violates the new law it’s a gross misdemeanor. A repeat offense becomes a class C felony.

While opponents have made arguments about possibilities that might never happen (such as getting arrested because your son walked away too far from you with your gun on a hunting trip), they can legitimately argue that the new law presents an added responsibility on law-abiding gun owners. There is an added process for everyone trying to sell a gun. If the legislation passes and you want to sell a gun you will have to process that sale through a licensed gun dealer. You’ll have to pay for a background check and wait up to 10 days to get the transaction finalized. To be clear, that is not an automatic 10-day waiting period. It just means the background check can take that long. If the check is complete sooner then the gun has to become available to the buyer right away.

Still, that’s more than what you have to do now. Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecutor, argued to the Seattle Times editorial board that most gun owners understand the responsibility of gun ownership and that going through that extra work is worth it for the benefit it is to the larger population.

““Every new law intrudes on the liberty of somebody, and the question is is it worth it to deny putting guns in the hands of people who have no business having them and I think it is,” Satterberg said.

His opponents in that same meeting argued there shouldn’t be an expansion in the state database when the state is having trouble keeping up to date with the existing system and when the state is not enforcing existing laws or addressing mental health issues that could have a bigger impact.

After Joshua Blake shot and killed Washington State Trooper Tony Radulescu in February 2012, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated how Blake, a felon, had a gun. They determined that he most likely got it at a gun show in Port Angeles. Under existing law the seller would have been under no obligation to even ask Blake if he was a felon. If the law as written in 594 were in effect, Blake could not have obtained the gun that way.

The other possibility was that Blake’s father left it to him. Blake would have had to inform the state his intention to keep it, which the state would have denied. It’s reasonable to assume Blake wouldn’t have bothered to tell the state he was in illegal possession of a gun.

If Blake did get the gun at a show, and if the proposed law were in effect then, the seller would have either tried to get a background check done or run the risk of being charged with a gross misdemeanor. Could Blake have figured out another way to get a gun? Even proponents of 594 would concede that he could. Whether he would have, we can’t be sure, because he later killed himself with the same gun and we don’t know how motivated he was to have a weapon.

Proponents will concede that the new law would not stop every criminal or mentally ill person from getting a gun, but that it will stop some, and that it’s worth the burden on law-abiding citizens to see that happen. Opponents say the law burdens too many people in the sales and lending of guns and doesn’t solve the problem proponents are trying to fix.

27 thoughts on “Targeting some claims on Initiative 594

  1. I stand by my admonition: “Bad Law: Defeat I-594” for the reasons outlined in albeit a brief video. Others have done more thorough analysis of the fatal flaws of I-594, mine was to introduce voters to the concept this is a bad law and heaven knows we have thousands of those sloshing around. Hey, Steve G. take the pledge!@!

  2. Steve G: are you starting the cry for “content ID claim” or just waiting for a pawn to do that for you? Count me in on your pool wager. Under YouTube relations and “Fair Use,” the use of the song as editorial content is legally permissible. Such attempts have been undertaken but all have failed. And yes, it is a great song as are all of my sound tracks for campaign videos.

  3. John — are you neither an officer or a gentleman? I, as both, used the legal rights of Fair Use that is used on a vast majority of the 1 billion YouTube videos. Remember that cute video about you — 8,000 views. You’re (in) famous, too bad your gig at BITV sank since you and Scott got along so well.

  4. Jim, Gosh, 8,000 views and you still can’t get elected to public office? And apparantly, neither can any of the candidates that you mention in your video. Funny how that works. It’s like your endorsement is some kind of a jinx. Same with your Bad Law video. I-594 is bound to pass and it will be partly your fault. Thanks for the help. Keep up the good work.

  5. Oh John. I long for the days of BITV. You were fabulously entertaining. I miss it dearly.

    Jim, my man. I won’t pick apart your posts at this time, even though they are ripe for the nit picking, but once again you’ve proven that you can’t help yourself to save yourself. If you had invested your campaign funds into hiring a campaign or public relations manager; they would have advised you to step away from the keyboard.

  6. My thanks to Kitsap Caucus Man for finally motivating me to contribute to James Olsen’s campaign. I appreciate Mr. Olsen’s fortitude and forthrightness. (Contribute here:
    Kitsap Caucus Man did not debunk Mr. Olsen’s video. If anything, he did his best to confuse voters on the veracity of I-594.
    Gun prohibitionists ADMIT their verbose 18-page law won’t stop every criminal or mentally ill person from getting a gun, yet they think nothing of further “burdening” law-abiding citizens in the vain hope that it will stop “some.”
    Does ANYONE believe criminals will abide by ANY law if they want to obtain a gun?
    Initiative 594 is a brazen attempt by gun prohibition groups to further restrict the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns. They are committing verbicide in the hope of duping voters into voting for it.
    And why do you think BILLIONAIRES (who have their own ARMED security guards) are giving MILLIONS to the I-594 war chest?
    These zealots are not interested in stopping a criminal or mentally ill person from getting a gun. They covet complete control over EVERY aspect of our lives. Once we are disarmed, they will use the force of government to trample over ALL our liberties with impunity.
    Kitsap Caucus Man, ultimately your First Amendment rights will be trampled as well.
    Defending and preserving our Second Amendment rights demands vigilance. And that’s what this battle is all about. Without the Second Amendment as a bulwark, the rest will fall.

  7. Steve Gardner: I just sent a note to your editor asking why the inprint version of your Kitsap Caucus failed to even mention the name of the video you spent a barrel on ink on critiquing. Hope the editor gets that remedied because as much as people trust you — or don’t — your paper’s readers don’t like to be confused with just your analysis of a video hidden from them. This type of treatment is very similar to the new’s joke of NPR.

    mmick: Please !#!

  8. mmick, Jim’s inventory problems have been in the police blotter so many times that BITV would have had to run a two hour special just to cover the really funny reports.

  9. Remember, folks, this IS Jimmy Olsen, who spent 30 years in the Coast Guard, forty more in business, after graduating from college.

    He may be getting up in years. Give him a break.

    No worry about getting elected; ol’ Jim is his own worst campaigner.

  10. If I-594 passes, the legislature cannot tweak or change the law for a minimum of 2 years. They are specifically barred from changing any initiative for that time period.

    1. Shawn is mostly correct. If the Legislature could muster up a two-thirds majority in both chambers it could amend or repeal the law before two years is up.

      Steven Gardner
      Kitsap Sun

  11. Really Steve? You call this a rebuttal? You sound like Bill Clinton “Well, It depends on yur definition of…” Basically what you’ve done is admmit that he is right but that you want to give your supporters some arguing points just to cloud the issue. “Here’s what you can say folks…”

    VOTE NO on 594!

  12. No, I do not call this a “rebuttal.” Nor would I say it was my job to “debunk” Mr. Olsen, unless his claims were false. In other words, fact check, just as I said. There’s a big difference.

    Steven Gardner
    Kitsap Sun

  13. One of the side effects of the PROPOSED law that has not been addressed is that any FFL (Federal Firearms License) holder is not likely to perform all these brand new “background checks” out of the kindness of their heart. Prices in Kitsap currently start @ $15 and can go up sharply from there.
    And lets look just a bit at those “background checks”. The NICS system is only as accurate as the data provided by the states. The amount and currency of that data is in practice all over the map.
    So what does I 594 actually do? Provides feel good legislation for the Michael Bloomberg followers while complicating law abiding
    firearms owners lives.

    And not stopping crime one whit.

    NO on 594!

  14. As a Veteran, even stopping a few people from owning a gun is not worth taking away any of our rights. Many vets dies for those rights and they are not for sale by Bill Gates, Paul Allen or Mr. Houge, the present and hopefully short termed prosecutor for Kitsap county. I know felons have gun collections, even though it is against the law for them to own them and I bet NONE were bought at a gun show but were gained through burglaries of law abiding citizens. The Columbine shooter stole his mothers registered rifle so it would not have done any good for that one either. By definition, a criminal is a person who doesnot follow the law so what makes the idiots behind this initiative think they will start obeying the law???? Take your head out of the sand….

  15. Gentleman, to understand why this is a bad initiative you need only look at article 1 section 1 of the Washington State Constitution. Proponents willingly admit this infringes on the liberty of individuals, but claim that the security we get from it make it desirable. I reject that. So does the States Constitution, which exists to “protect and maintain individual rights”.

    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    -Benjamin Franklin

  16. It’s disgraceful that so many people are all too willing to give up their rights for yet another feel good law paid for by rich people that have armed body guards. The only people this law will affect are law abiding citizens. To all you bleeding hearts out there thinking this law will help stop criminals from being criminals: Take off your blinders put down that cup of Kool-Aid and try to think rationally for yourself. Yep, that’s right; criminals are criminals because they DO NOT follow the law. If a criminal wants a gun or any weapon they will find a way to get said weapon because they are CRIMINALS. No new law will stop them, because they are criminals. Contact your representative’s and tell them to enforce the laws that are already on the books and to quite slapping criminal’s hands and sending them on their way with a verbal warning. Please think logically and vote no on I-594.

    It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.

  17. 594 criminalizes temporary transfers – mere transfer of possession – without background checks.

    under 594, it is a criminal act to loan my grandfather my gun while recreational shooting on private property.

    this is deliberate. 594 absolutely, and clearly intends to criminalize temporary transfers of possession. if 594 did not intend to require background checks for mere temporary change of possession, then the exemption in 594 for using your spouse’s gun for self defense would not exist!

    simple as that.

    594 is broken, bad law. it claims to “close the gun show loophole” and only control private sales. but it is far more than that. by criminalizing mere transfer of possession, it makes criminals of completely innocent behavior for no good reason.

    594 apologists claim “prosecutors will simply ignore that part of the law”, or “you can ignore it, you’ll never get caught”. both are terrible suggestions. suggesting law enforcement ignore the law, or civilians ignore the law, sets terrible precedent.

    they also claim that since the FBI says mere transfer of possession is not a transfer, therefore it’s legal under 594. the problem is that the F in FBI means that the FBI opinions are only valid for FEDERAL law, not state law. the FBI says marijuana is illegal. so if we are to use 594 proponents reasoning, then the FBI’s opinion nullifies I-502 – the WA state marijuana law.

  18. It makes me sad that so many people are willing to throw away their rights, for broken laws, that restrict their ability to pursue and defend their happiness and rights. Then fight with each other about who is right. This is so ridiculous, if you don’t own a firearm you should not be able to vote on this initiative. Do not tell me how to best defend my wife and house its none of anyone’s business, especially not our governments. All this law does is make it harder for me, a legal law abiding citizen to protect my wife and I’s life’s from the very criminals this law is claiming to restrict. Please, if you are one who is for cutting your rights out of the constitution with litigation and legislation please stop making this country a more restrictive dangerous place for me and my family, stop voting, go find another hobby besides demonizing another voice because it doesn’t align with your view of big government utopia society.

  19. mehim, if it is not too much trouble, how about telling us just what part of I-594 will impact your current ownership of a firearm? You are not obliged to report that you have a firearm. You do come under the regulations if you sell a firearm, or if you buy another firearm to add to your collection. But you have been registered for a period of time if you have, in fact, ever purchased a firearm from a dealer. Are you more at risk now? Are you registered to vote, licensed to drive, a tax payer, married (yes, you say), member of a church and more?

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