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Court of Appeals upholds ruling to dismiss background check opposition

SEATTLE, Wash. - Washington State became the 17th state to require background checks on all gun sales and transfers when it passed Initiative 594 with 59 percent of the vote on November 4, 2014.

On Thursday, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Northwest School of Safety v. Ferguson, the lawsuit brought by the second Amendment Foundation and others against Initiative 594.

The court's ruling upheld the lower court's decision to dismiss the claims challenging the validity of Initiative 594, for lack of constitutional standing.

Since Initiative 594 took effect in December 2014, there have been at least 29,692 private background checks, including more than 11,500 so far in 2017. This has prevented 201 private gun sales to prohibited purchasers between December 2014 and April 2017

“The ruling today affirms what we’ve known from the beginning—the gun lobby’s lawsuit was unfounded. This law, which has now been on the books for nearly three years, has been doing exactly what it was intended to do-- help keep guns out of dangerous hands,” said Renée Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “I also want to thank Attorney General Bob Ferguson for his vigorous defense of Washington law, especially those—like universal background checks—that have such a material impact on the health and safety of our communities.”

The gun lobby, after losing their campaign to pass a competing initiative and weaken Washington’s gun laws, filed an initial complaint in December 2014. In May 2015, the U.S. District Court dismissed the gun lobby’s lawsuit, dealing a major blow to their effort to overturn the voter-approved background check initiative. 

The Judge ruled that background check opponents didn’t have standing to challenge Initiative 594’s voter-approved requirements for private gun transfers because they had not suffered injury or shown a risk of being prosecuted. The gun lobby appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed a bill that clarified the provisions of Initiative 594. The bill took effect on July 23, 2017 and clarified background check exceptions for suicide prevention, temporary transfers, employer to employee for business, loans between family members and antiques.


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