Agree with them or not, new gun-storage provisions take effect Monday. Does that mean firearms owners must have gun safes or use gun locks?
Not necessarily, according to details of Initiative 1639, approved by voters last November.
Secure storage provisions are among many changes to Washington’s firearms laws brought on by the initiative. Some parts of 1639 have been in force since Jan. 1, primarily a ban on sales to those under age 21 of what the state Attorney General’s Office calls semiautomatic assault rifles.
The National Rifle Association and a gun-rights group have filed a lawsuit challenging parts of 1639. But unless a court rules otherwise, by Monday the entire measure will be in force. A city of Edmonds ordinance relating to firearms storage is already in effect. It, too, is being challenged in court.
Statewide, other parts of 1639 taking effect Monday include requirements for enhanced background checks, waiting periods and training, plus safety-warning and storage rules for gun dealers.
“A safe is the best, secured to the wall,” said Deputy Chief John DeRousse of the Everett Police Department.
The city recently launched a Lock It Everett campaign, which has provided free gun locks at the department’s downtown North Precinct and the South Precinct on Everett Mall Way.
“Most gun owners already have safes,” said Tiffany Teasdale, co-owner of Lynnwood Gun & Ammunition, a retailer on Highway 99. Teasdale, who opposes what she calls “Washington’s new ridiculous law,” believes the changes encroach upon the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Teasdale, who spoke out publicly against the Edmonds ordinance, maintains that existing laws already address illegal use of guns.
While demonstrating the use of a gun lock at her store Monday, Teasdale said all firearms sold legally in the state now come with the locks, or buyers are given them with a purchase.
Teasdale said her store has seen “a massive spike” in gun sales since 1639 was passed in November. “Nobody is buying locks and nobody is buying safes,” she said. “We’re selling 90 guns a week, and we used to sell 20 to 30.”
Customers who once bought one or two guns a year “are now buying 10,” she said, adding that some people fear their guns will be taken away.
At West Coast Armory North in Everett, a staff member who declined to be identified said he’s seeing some increase in sales of both firearms and safes. The business on Airport Road is a gun retailer and indoor shooting range.
What do the state’s new secure storage provisions actually require? Are you liable if a gun is stolen and used in a crime? New laws don’t directly require that guns be stored in a particular place or way.
An owner is not liable if, through unlawful entry, the theft of a gun is reported to law enforcement within five days of the time that owner knew or should have known it was taken.
But if it’s not in secure storage — a locked box, gun safe, other secure locked storage space designed to prevent unauthorized use or discharge of a firearm — you could under some circumstances be charged with a crime. That’s if you knew or reasonably should have known the gun could be accessed by someone prohibited from possessing it — such as a child.
Come Monday, a person who fails to securely store a gun could be charged with a Class C felony if someone legally ineligible to possess a firearm uses it to injure or kill themselves or someone else. Punishment could mean prison or a fine of up to $10,000. In other cases, the owner who failed to securely store it could be charged with a gross misdemeanor.
Storage requirements are not violated if the gun was secured with a trigger lock or similar device; if the person is ineligible because of age but the access is with parental permission and under adult supervision; or in cases of self-defense.
In Everett, Chapter 9.90 of the municipal code requires reporting the theft or loss of a firearm within 24 hours of it being discovered. Those failing to comply may be fined up to $250.
It’s all in the details. Enforcement doesn’t mean police knocking on doors to see how your guns are stored. The Constitution strictly limits when law enforcement may enter a home.
In some Washington counties, sheriffs don’t plan to enforce the new law. Don’t count on that here. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office has on its website a guide from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs explaining all the changes in gun laws.
DeRousse, Everett’s deputy chief, said police see the results of irresponsible gun owners. He particularly mentioned the risks of leaving an unsecured gun in a car.
“I think most gun owners are pretty responsible,” he said. “These types of ordinances are reminders.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The state Office of the Attorney General has a question-and-answer web page about Initiative 1639, which changed gun laws: www.atg.wa.gov/initiative-1639
Information about Lock It Everett: https://everettwa.gov/1882/Lock-it-Everett