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Washington's New I-594 - A Law Only Rube Goldberg Could Love

By Dan Zimmerman on November 11, 2014

By Michael H.

Being a current resident of Washington I can tell you how devastating this law will be. Basically, the law makes handing another person your firearm illegal, except in specific circumstances. Because the law is under affirmative defense, if the prosecutor claims you have broken the law, it is up to the defendant to prove their innocence, not the prosecutor to prove guilt. All the prosecutor has to prove is that you handed someone else your gun, which is quite easy to do even if you did it legally. Then you have to pay for the legal fees and everything else incurred during a trial . . .

Secondly, the law does not allow for adult friends to go shooting together unless the firearm is kept on the range at all times, a draconian rule that reminds me of certain European countries. That would be an illegal transfer.

Third, the law distinguishes between adult children and children under 18. A father handing a gun to a minor child under his direct supervision is legal. But a parent wishing to take his 18+ year-old son shooting would not be able to share a gun under the law. The "child" you are going shooting with doesn't even have to be yours. But the drafters still overlooked a major situation. You can go shooting with a spouse but not with an adult child. Seriously?

Fourth, the law does not allow for ignorance of the legal situation of the person you are shooting with. You could be convicted simply for not doing a background check on your lifelong friend that you would never have suspected of being a convicted criminal.

Lastly, in Washington state we have the privilege of being allowed to shoot on public land if it is a certain distance away from cities or roads. There are quite a few popular public shooting pits where you can blast away at soda cans, an old hard drive, or whatever else your local range won't allow. These are also great because many ranges don't let people shoot quickly when practicing for 3-gun and other competitions. However, I-594 doesn't even acknowledge these in its exceptions, so the law has effectively banned friends from going shooting together on public land without amending the old law.

I'm no lawyer, but I know how to read. These are horrendous flaws in the final text of the law and I really hope they are challenged in court. Even if many of our pro-gun police and sheriffs won't enforce 594, it still disturbs me that this passed muster with the voting public.