I-1639, One Week In


The dust is starting to settle after Washington's Initiative 1639 and new federal laws last week changed how Washington gun stores sell semi-automatic rifles and handguns.

Since the law went into effect, Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman said Monday that he hasn't heard any major complaints about making sales or transfers from gun sellers. The records department hasn't noticed an uptick in background checks yet, he said, although he cautioned that it's still early on in the process.

Adam Brooks and his sister Amie Nelsen co-own Longview Pawnbrokers. Brooks said his business is still selling guns without any problems and said the new sales process for handguns and semi-automatic rifles is straightforward, although it hasn't been popular among customers.

The week before I-1639 went into effect July 1, Brooks said the store had a surge of handgun and semi-automatic rifle sales. Buyers wanted to get their guns before new waiting periods, mandatory safety training and an $18 fee per sale went into effect, he said.

They didn't want "to go through all the B.S.," Brooks said.

And the sheriff's office has already reached capacity for several hour-long I-1639 training classes in July, Thurman said. The new law requires prospective semi-automatic rifle buyers take a safety training class held by law enforcement, a gun training school or similar organization. Thurman estimated that about 200 people are currently signed up for the sheriff's office classes.

It's still too early to say how the law will affect business, Brooks said. But customers are feeling the burn from the new background check system and ensuing waiting periods for concealed pistol license holders, he said.

Handgun sellers like Brooks previously could use the FBI's National Instant Background Check System, which in Washington state would allow concealed pistol licenses carriers to buy a handgun and walk out with it that day. Federal changes in that system on July 1 gave that job to local law enforcement instead. As a result, concealed pistol license owners are no longer exempted from the up to 10-day wait for purchasing a handgun.

"It's just a lot more of a hassle for people that have a concealed weapons permit to come in and purchase a handgun," Brooks said. "When they see something they like (and are) from out of town, passing through ... they don't want to have to drive all the way back."

And the rules around pawning semi-automatic rifles remain vague, Brooks said. Ordinarily, customers can temporarily surrender guns and other valuables to pawnbrokers for low-interest loans. If they don't pay the money back, the store keeps the item.

But for semi-automatic rifles, do those pawning the rifles also have to comply with the safety training, fees and background checks that purchasers now do?

"Time will tell," Brooks said. He said that he's getting new information from state agencies by the day and that it's not yet entirely clear what requirements are in place for someone pawning a semi-automatic rifle.

Thurman said he'll be meeting with Longview police soon to work on ironing out those legal questions.

"I-1639 was designed for sales and transfers," Brooks said. "This is kind of an aspect of business that they didn't really think about."