On this November’s ballot, Washington state voters will be asked to approve or reject Initiative 594, which calls for expanded background checks on most firearms transfers, including loans and gifts. If approved by voters, the measure would require background checks to be run on every person purchasing a gun in Washington, even those who are doing so via private sales.
Washington Farm Bureau is against I-594. We believe the measure is poorly drafted and creates criminals out of innocent citizens, including farmers and ranchers who often use firearms to defend their land and animals from predators.
I-594 would criminalize almost anyone who hands someone else a firearm, even if the use of the weapon is for a legitimate purpose. For example, a farm employee could no longer legally use a gun licensed to the farm’s owner to defend the farm’s livestock. Because of its broad definitions, I-594 endangers the current flexibility that rural Washington’s families and livelihoods need. Voters in Washington have already spoken on this issue. In 1997, voters were asked to approve a similar measure in the form of Initiative 676. It was soundly rejected by a nearly 71 percent to 29 percent margin.
In short, we believe I-594 is a misfire. It is an unnecessary, feel-good measure that will do nothing to stop criminals — who by definition do not obey gun laws — from acquiring firearms, while further hamstringing law-abiding gun owners, including many of Washington Farm Bureau’s 41,000 member families.
We urge our members and the public to vote “no” on I-594.