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Other Papers Say: Bill is unfair to firearms dealers

By The Seattle Times
Published: March 2, 2024, 6:01am

The following editorial originally appeared in The Seattle Times:

Washington ranks among the top 10 states in the nation for strength of gun laws, according to Everytown, a gun policy and research organization.

In recent sessions, lawmakers wisely have done much to try to keep residents safe, including banning assault-style weapons last year. The Legislature now is considering three bills, two that are reasonable and should be enacted. The third overreaches and should be rejected.

House Bill 1903 would require gun owners to report the loss or theft of their firearm within 24 hours of discovering its disappearance. House Bill 2021 would authorize the Washington State Patrol to destroy guns it has seized that were used in crimes or otherwise illegally possessed.

A third measure, House Bill 2118, adds restrictions to licensed firearm dealers when it comes to securing, storing and monitoring their inventory.

All three have passed the House and a Senate committee.

The first bill is needed to help law enforcement investigate crimes that involve suspects who are not legally allowed to possess a firearm but are charged with using one in the commission of a crime. It’s sometimes difficult to determine how the suspect acquired the gun if it hasn’t been reported stolen.

This bill will drive home the seriousness of gun ownership and the responsibilities that go with it. Ideally, prosecutors will take into consideration that some theft victims will not be able to meet the 24-hour deadline due to trauma or injuries incurred with being a victim.

The State Patrol should be able to destroy guns that are unclaimed or no longer a part of evidence rather than returning them to the gun market through a sale or auction. This move would show compassion for victims of gun violence and their families.

But HB 2118 pushes gun control to a level of punishment for legitimate businesses. The bill would require gun dealers to run annual background checks on their employees, carry $1 million liability insurance, install steel doors or bars at the business, and meet onerous requirements for storage and security systems with audio and video surveillance. Gun dealers would have to digitally archive some video for two years. Dealers would also be required to file annual reports with the state that attest to their compliance.

This bill would impose costs on small firearms sellers that could force them out of business and open even wider the black market for gun sales.

Some lawmakers may not like the selling of guns in Washington, but it’s a legal business. The Seattle Times Editorial Board praised the Legislature for enacting laws that banned the sale of assault-style weapons and ammunition over the past two years. But HB 2118 unnecessarily tightens the rein on gun dealers while using the public’s safety as a smoke screen.