Breaking apart the new Washington State gun law


Jack Belcher, News Editor

A new gun law will be affecting citizens under the age of 21 who want to buy semi-automatic rifles. Initiative 1639 passed in Washington state with over 60 percent of voters in favor in November of 2018.

The law raises the age requirement to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21 years old. It defines semi-automatic rifles as firearms that use the power of a round fired to chamber the next bullet, then require a separate pull of the trigger to fire that bullet. This means that the only action a marksman needs to take in order to fire a round is a pull of the trigger.

Other weapon types such as bolt, lever and pump action are still legal to buy as an 18-year-old, and are unaffected by this law.

CWU is a weapons-free campus, so even people not affiliated with the university cannot walk around campus with a firearm, regardless of whether they have a concealed carry permit or pistol permit. If a student is living on campus and wants to own a firearm, he/she needs to register and store that firearm with campus police or keep it off-campus. This means that someone under the age of 21 who already owns a semi-automatic weapon can still store it with campus police.

“When the law went into effect, it didn’t say ‘hey everyone under 21 you have to get rid of them,’ it just means that it needs to stay secure in your abode or residence,” CWU Police Lieutenant Marc McPherson said.

The law will also require anyone purchasing a rifle to pass a background check as well as a firearms training course. On July 1, a portion of the law will go into effect which introduces a wait time of ten business days before customers receive their firearms.

A“safe storage” provision of this law also comes into effect on July 1. The law defines someone in violation of this as “a person who stores or leaves a firearm in a location where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a prohibited person may gain access to the firearm.”

If this “prohibited person” uses that firearm to injure or kill someone, then the owner of the the firearm is guilty of a felony, or first degree community endangerment.

A person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor if the “prohibited person” fires the weapon, intimidates people by showing the weapon in public or uses the weapon to commit a crime.

If a weapon is obtained through illegal entry, the owner of the firearm will not be guilty of community endangerment.

Rich Coleman, manager of Kittitas County Trading Co. Pawn and Gun is not happy with this law. Coleman believes that the background checks and training courses are just going to cause more problems for people like him that have experience with guns. However, he also understands that people who are inexperienced with firearms need the training.

Ed Fernandes, the co-owner of Grizzly Safe Co. in Ellensburg, believes that the “safe storage” provision would help prevent children from easily obtaining their parents’ guns.

“If you have a pistol, a pistol safe will protect kids,” Fernandes said.