Justice

Gun Sellers Urge Customers To Purchase Weapons Before Background Checks Kick In

CREDIT: AP Photo/Nick Ut

A ballot initiative in Washington State to tighten gun background checks looks poised to pass on Election Day, with likely supporters outnumbering the opposition by 2-to-1 in a poll last week. But gun sellers are using the likely passage as a selling point for online transactions.

“Get your gun now before initiative 594 gets you,” reads one ad for a semi-automatic assault rifle priced at $1,200. “This 308 assault rifle is so much fun and can shoot through a cinder block.”

I-594 would close a major gun safety loophole and subject private gun sales — including those in the Internet — to the same background checks that are required for other gun sales. Opponents in the gun activist movement warn that the initiative would imperil those who loan a gun to a friend or give one away as a gift, while one NRA spokesman compared background check expansions to Nazi Germany. But the flurry of sellers and buyers at ArmsList.com have other outcomes in mind.

“Get it before/if 594 passes,” reads another ad for a semi-automatic rifle. One ad that disclosed it was a parody because the poster doesn’t have any guns for sale warned of price-gouging once I-594 goes into effect. “Since you lazy mutts aren’t doing anything to stop the sheep from being bought with big money and 594 is going to be the real deal, I figured I’d better CASH IN while I can,” the poster said.

Others posted ads looking to buy a list of firearms before the law goes into effect.

What these gun ads don’t note is that a dueling ballot initiative could thwart background checks for private sales. That initiative, I-591, would prevent the state from implementing a background check “unless a uniform national standard is required.” Because federal legislators never closed the private gun sale loophole, passage of both initiatives would mean seemingly contradictory orders and would likely send the initiatives into a court battle. That National Rifle Association-backed ballot initiative is not polling as well, with 34.4 percent saying they are a definite yes in the same KCTS-9 Washington Poll past week, and another 7.3 percent leaning toward a yes vote.

The contradictory initiatives reflect the competing philosophies in a state with both progressive enclaves and a significant gun culture. Washington State has more gun dealers than post offices or Starbucks, according to a recent Center for American Progress analysis. And Everytown for Gun Safety found that 1 in 10 individuals looking to buy guns online are prohibited from buying or selling guns.

The state has also seen its share of gun casualties. In addition to several recent school shootings, more women were killed with guns in the state between 2003 and 2012 than the number of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan who hail from the state.

Some opponents of I-594 are claiming that a female may want to borrow a gun to protect herself. But studies of gun violence have found that having a gun in the home at the very least triples the risk of homicide against a female. In fact, women victims of domestic abuse who lobbied Congress for stronger background check laws last year explained that they were shot with their own guns. “Women who fear for their life don’t need a gun — they need to go to their local police department, they need to go a family member, they need to go to the domestic violence shelter in their area where they have some type of protection,” said Christy Salters Martin, a domestic violence survivor who was stabbed and shot by her husband after she attempted to leave him.