Control Your Gun: Or become a felon on December 4th.

Initiative 594 is here! Regardless of your opinion on the Initiative, it becomes law December 4th. Don't fool yourself: the state legislature can't repeal it and the courts are unlikely to block its implementation. This law is effectively guaranteed to be here for at least the next two years regardless of what you think about it. So for you gun owners out there: It will soon be a crime to let someone so much as touch your gun without a background check.

So, what do you need to do as a law abiding gun owner to continue to obey the law? Ultimately that comes down to what changed. The first change is from a new section. This is a excerpt the section described in the ballot title:

(2) No person shall sell or transfer a firearm unless:
(a) The person is a licensed dealer;
(b) The purchaser or transferee is a licensed dealer; or
(c) The requirements of subsection (3) of this section are met.
(3) Where neither party to a prospective firearms transaction is a
licensed dealer, the parties to the transaction shall complete the sale or transfer through a licensed dealer as follows:

You aren't a licensed dealer, so you can't transfer your firearm to anyone but a licensed dealer. The other key change is the addition of a definition to RCW 9.41.010:

(25) "Transfer" means the intended delivery of a firearm to another person without consideration of payment or promise of payment including, but not limited to, gifts and loans.

Transfer now means intended delivery. This is ultimately the big change. Delivery does not mean change of ownership, it is merely "the transfer of possession". And what is possession? Consult your legal dictionary again, because this is where things get tricky: Possession is not the same as ownership. Multiple people can possess an item at the same time. Under the new law it is illegal for you to allow someone other than a licensed dealer to possess your firearm.

Lets start with "Actual Possession". That means physical control of an object. Once the law comes into effect, it will be illegal to let anyone other than a licensed dealer obtain physical control over your gun. So this is sort of like football. Your gun is a football, and you go to jail if you fumble. Don't let anyone other than a gun dealer touch your gun!

Next is "Constructive Possession". Again from the legal dictionary: possession "exists where a person has knowledge of an object plus the ability to control the object, even if the person has no physical contact with it." Does someone other than yourself know the combo to your gun safe? Say your Father knows the combo. He has possession of your guns, you've committed a crime. Change the combo on your gun safe, and don't tell anyone. Do you share a gun safe with a friend? Time to buy a second one. Do you not have a gun safe at all? If anyone else has access to your house and knows you keep guns there, you've committed a crime! Time to buy a gun safe!

Yes, there are exceptions, however most of them don't apply to you. You can share your firearms with your spouse or domestic partner. You can't share your gun at a shooting range. This may change if the state begins to license ranges and the gun never leaves the gun range, even with the owner. No one should be using a real gun in a performance, but there are some narrow cases where you can loan a gun if you think that is a good idea. You can loan the gun to your children under 18 as long as you keep them under your direct supervision. You can loan a firearm while hunting as long as both you and your hunting buddy remain in an area where you both have valid hunting licenses. You can gift a firearm to immediate family members, but you can't loan or share with them.

So, what do you need to do to ensure you don't commit any crimes?

  1. Buy a gun safe.
  2. Set the combo on your gun safe so only you (and your spouse) know it.
  3. Always keep your gun in the safe, unless you, your spouse, or a licensed gun dealer are in direct contact with the gun.
  4. Don't let anyone other than your spouse, your child under 18 and under your immediate supervision, or a licensed gun dealer come in to physical contact with your gun.

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Comments

"Transferring" a firearm to a child: is it a "bona fide gift"?

Not just any transfers are allowed, only a "bona fide gift". What exactly that means isn't defined, but the law does call it out as different from a temporary transfer. What is clear: if you let your adult child know the combination to your gun safe, you've committed an illegal transfer. If your adult child keeps his guns in your safe (to keep them away from his children, for example) you better make sure he is gifting them to you every time he leaves them in there, and you gift them back every time he picks them up. Otherwise you've both committed a felony.

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