A convicted felon in real life, Olympia resident Michael Joanen was buying and selling guns on Facebook with little trouble, federal prosecutors contend.
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Had Joanen tried to buy a gun through a licensed dealer, he would have been turned away if his criminal history had been discovered during a background check. Likewise, he, as a convicted felon, couldn’t have secured a federal firearms dealer’s license.
Online, though, Joanen was able to deal in guns for months before federal investigators caught wind, prosecutors now claim.
A group pushing an initiative that would require background checks for private gun sales in Washington state released a study Friday finding that many of the police deaths here since 1980 have come at the hands of people legally prohibited from having firearms.
Under federal law, background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS, are required for purchasing firearms from licensed gun dealers, but not at gun shows or for private transactions. I-594 would require that such sales or other transfers be conducted at a licensed dealer, with background checks being conducted as if the licensed dealer were selling the weapon.
The measure includes exceptions for emergency gun transfers concerning personal safety, gifts between family members, antiques and loans for hunting.
“For too long, prohibited purchasers — whether they be felons, domestic abusers or the seriously mentally ill — have been able to evade the background-check process by purchasing a gun either at a gun show or online from a private seller,” Don Pierce, a former Bellingham police chief, told reporters on a conference call. “This is a dangerous loophole in our law that puts all of us at risk, including law enforcement officers.”
We wrote in late July about comments made by a National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist who compared the proposed background checks initiative to the beginning of Nazi oppression of Jews before World War II.
Neither the lobbyist, Brian Judy, nor the NRA have commented on that episode.
Now, four Democrat legislators have sent a letter to the NRA demanding that the organization dissociate itself from the remarks.
“We are dismayed that both Mr. Judy and the National Rifle Association have chosen to remain silent for four weeks on this subject,” reads the letter, dated Sept. 2. “These views, left unaddressed, have the potential to jeopardize the effectiveness of your representatives in working with many legislators and staff in Olympia.”
The letter is signed by Sen. Jamie Pedersen of Seattle, Rep. Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma, Rep. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle and Rep. Brady Walkinshaw of Seattle. Read a copy of the letter here.
Washington state will have two diametrically opposed initiatives on the November ballot regarding guns this year.
Initiative 594 would expand background checks to include all sales, including those at gun shows, and include most private transactions, like those given as gifts and loans.
In opposition is Initiative 591, which would prevent any expansion of background checks beyond the national standard, which only requires them for sales from licensed dealers. It would also prevent any government agencies from being able to confiscate guns without due process.
While we agree the government shouldn’t be able to take away a person’s firearms simply on a whim, regular readers won’t be surprised to learn we’re in favor of a reasonable expansion of background checks to ensure guns stay in the hands of people who are allowed to have them.
Unfortunately, those who crafted I-591 don’t seem to know the meaning of the word “reasonable.”
Today, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility launched its television advertising campaign urging Washingtonians to vote YES on Initiative 594. Initiative 594 is the measure on this November’s ballot to close the loophole in Washington law that makes it easy for convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill to evade a background check and obtain firearms with no questions asked.
In the first ad of the campaign — entitled “Prevent” — former Bellingham Chief of Police Don Pierce details the effectiveness of background checks in blocking gun sales to criminals and other dangerous people, and also explains how the loophole in Washington’s law makes it easy for those same individuals to evade a background check and obtain a firearm. In the ad, available here, Chief Pierce urges Washingtonians to close that loophole by voting “Yes” on Initiative 594 in November.
Paid for by Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility PO Box 21712 Seattle, WA 98111. Top five contributors: Nicolas Hanauer, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, William Gates III, Melinda Gates, Paul Allen