- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Three months after voters approved Initiative 594 to require background checks on most gun transfers, lawmakers considered proposals Monday to exempt police, military personnel and licensed security guards.

The state Senate Law and Justice Committee held hearings on a series of bills that would create professional exceptions to the initiative that voters approved in November to require background checks on gun transfers including purchases and most loans.

The initiative does not affect gifts among family, antique gun sales and some types of loans, such as at a government-authorized shooting range. Several senators said people with proper government credentials that came with extensive background checks of their own should be added to that list.

“Who would think that you would need to do a background check between two members of the armed forces transferring a weapon between the two of them?” said Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, who sponsored one of the bills. “There’s no need for that, and it’s a waste of time and money.”

Advocates of creating exceptions to the background checks, including representatives from gun owners groups as well as businessmen from security companies and gun stores, said the initiative is having effects that seem to be unintended, including preventing security companies from loaning guns to their licensed guards for day use.

The initiative is the subject of a pending lawsuit in federal court brought by opponents who say it infringes upon the right to bear arms guaranteed in the state and federal constitutions.

Rebecca Johnson of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which campaigned for the initiative, said the Legislature should hold off on creating new exemptions until the lawsuit has been ruled on.

“This specific question is in front of the courts right now,” Johnson said.

Law and Justice Committee chairman Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said he supports the proposed exemptions but doubts supporters can muster the two-thirds support from the Legislature required to change an initiative in the first two years after voters approve it.


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