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As key deadline looms, gun sellers still in dark on I-1639

Gun sellers like Talos Tactical have been left wondering how the state plans to enforce I-1639. (Talos Tactical)

When I-1639 was approved by voters in 2018, it was widely lauded as a huge step in the right direction for practical, safe gun control. Months later, though, its implementation has left both gun sellers and buyers with more questions than answers.

“It was a bad idea from the get-go, but the way they’re implementing it? Yeah that’s brutal,” said Matt Cieslar, the owner of Talos Tactical, a gun shop in Richland, Washington.

Initially, I-1639 raised the age to purchase a semiautomatic weapon from 18 to 21 on Jan. 1, 2019. On July 1, enhanced background check provisions go into place, and as of now, no one seems entirely sure how the state plans to enforce them.

Second Amendment Foundation: Loopholes aplenty with I-1639

“The state is prepared theoretically to handle the transfers of some auto rifles and handguns. We do have the forms in place now,” noted Cieslar. “What they didn’t prepare for was the sheer volume. Right now, roughly 90 percent of our handguns are purchased by concealed carry permit holders, so we can handle the background check ourselves. We’re allowed to do it for them to take the burden off police. That’s going away on July 1st.”

So, the state handles it instead, and everything’s fine, right? Not quite.

The FBI — who typically lends a hand with background checks for the purchase and sale of firearms — is currently at odds with the state’s own process.

“The FBI and the state have been feuding for a couple of years, very similar to the Washington driver’s licenses and Homeland Security, and much like that, Washington’s been dragging their feet,” said Cieslar.

Because of that, things like transferring a semi-automatic rifle over to a new owner becomes difficult. In fact…

“There is no mechanism for me to (do that) on July 1st with the forms that we currently have,” said Cieslar. “It’s effectively a ban, just due to ill-prepared people out there. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Gun safety classes

Another facet of I-1639 requires that buyers take a certified gun safety course before purchasing a semi-automatic weapon. Unsurprisingly, the infrastructure for that is equally as unformed as the one in place for background checks.

“There’s no standard forms that you fill out — the state doesn’t monitor it at all,” said Cieslar. “The only thing we’ve got is a check-box on our form that basically says ‘I pinky swear I took the class.'”

Lewis County DA: I-1639 is ‘an unenforceable law’

“A dude can come in with the note written on a napkin, and as long as he checks this form, I have to accept it, because the state didn’t do anything to form any sort of network or website like they were initially supposed to,” he continued.

At this point, it’s unclear what exactly will happen once the July 1 deadline hits.

What sellers like Cieslar are sure of, though, is that a system that had previously worked is now in tatters.

“It looks like a good idea on paper to some people I suppose, but basically we’ve tanked the system.”

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