The state of Washington has come up with a great new gun control law to protect victims of domestic abuse from their assailants.
On July 23, Washington will become the very first state to require survivors of domestic assault, sexual violence and stalking to be notified if their abusers attempt to purchase a firearm. The measure is part of a new gun control crackdown on all prohibited purchasers who try to illegally purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer — a practice known as “lie and try.”
Federal law bans people from acquiring guns if they have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence or have a restraining order. Lying on a background check is a federal offense but is hardly ever punished by federal authorities unless it involves smuggling or large-scale gun purchase.
Hence, thousands of time each year in the United States, a domestic assault convict or a person charged with a similar crime, succeeds in acquiring a gun without any consequences.
However, the new bill will hopefully stop this, as it will require gun dealers to alert the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs after someone fails a background check. The information goes into a database network linked with law enforcement agencies and a statewide notification system will give head up to the survivors that their attacker was trying to find a firearm. The system is already used to alert victims if their protection order will soon expire. The bill also allows for funding to investigate into these “lie and try” attempts.
The new bill is in agreement with the Lethality Assessment Project that recommends victims should be armed with the maximum available information to evaluate their vulnerability in life-threatening situations.
“Giving survivors of domestic violence the option to be notified if an abuser attempts to illegally purchase a gun allows them to more accurately plan for their own safety and the safety of those closest to them,” said Tamaso Johnson, the public policy director for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
In Washington, 54 percent of the 678 domestic violence murders in 17 years were committed with firearms. More than half of the perpetrators in 2013 and 2014 were legally forbidden from owning firearms at the time the shooting took place, Washington’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project determined.
In 2016, more than 3,200 “lie and try” attempts in Washington were ignored by law enforcement, according to a local news channel. In 2003, around 1,400 were denied guns at the point of sale because of their domestic violence history. King 5 TV could not find a single instance of prosecution for “lie and try” in the state.
Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst