It is both a state and federal crime for a "prohibited person" to attempt to purchase a firearm, but these criminals know their actions will go unpunished.
The Evergreen State has an interesting way of doling out justice and holding citizens accountable for breaking the law: they’re ignoring gun crimes.
This year alone, thousands of Washingtonians prohibited from owning firearms through court orders have been denied a gun purchase when their background check failed to clear. Although it is both a state and federal crime for a “prohibited person” to attempt to purchase a firearm, these criminals know their actions will go unpunished.
“I’m not going to beat around the bush. We’re not going to do anything with them,” said King County Sheriff John Urquhart.
Already this year, more than 3,2oo “prohibited people” have been denied a firearm purchase. But Sheriff Urquhart said even if a background check prevents one sale, it doesn’t mean that person wouldn’t find another way to get their hands on a firearm.
“If he really wanted to do harm to that woman with that gun, he can go out and buy one on the street like that,” the sheriff said as he snapped his fingers.
King County Sheriff’s Office records reviewed by KING 5 and Northwest News Network show that purchases were attempted by fugitives with active warrants, felons, domestic abusers and people who violated court protection orders.“It’s troubling. It’s deeply concerning. These are individuals who are not allowed to have a gun for a serious reason,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.
A half dozen women who were victims in those domestic violence cases said they were too frightened to speak publicly upon learning that their abusers had attempted to purchase firearms.
“He’s mentally ill and scary,” one woman said of the former boyfriend who stalked her. He kept a gun close at hand until the court ordered him to surrender all his firearms.
“Access to Firearms in Washington State“, a white paper report released by the Attorney General’s office in October, recommends “follow-up and potential enforcement” of attempted purchases by prohibited buyers, an idea Private Sector Arms owner Don Teague thinks would go a long way in curtailing this pattern of criminal activity.
“Prosecute some of those guys. You put a couple of those guys on the news for trying to purchase weapons and going to jail, that will put an end to that pretty quick,” Teague said.
“That’s what makes it so concerning. It’s not because you have a parking ticket. It’s not because you were speeding. These are serious situations, DV (domestic violence) felonies – that type of thing,” Ferguson said.
Sheriff Urquhart said even if could find the resources to investigate these cases, the county prosecutor’s office would not be able to handle the extra caseload. Proving once again, we have all the gun laws needed to end violence: what we are lacking is the resources to enforce them.