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caption: In this Dec. 9, 2015, photo, a sales associate walks past semiautomatic rifles at Bullseye Sport gun shop in Riverside, Calif.
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In this Dec. 9, 2015, photo, a sales associate walks past semiautomatic rifles at Bullseye Sport gun shop in Riverside, Calif.
Credit: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

WA voters approved strict gun laws in 2018. Why haven't they all been implemented?

In 2018, Washington voters approved I-1639 and threw their support behind some of the strictest gun regulations in the country. Four years later, one of those laws has been difficult to implement.

Initiative 1639 was a sweeping package of firearms regulations that was approved by Washington voters in 2018. The initiative did a lot, including raising the legal purchase age of semi-automatic rifles to 21 years old and implementing enhanced background checks for purchasing semi-automatic rifles.

Another provision tucked into the law required the state to figure out how to do annual background checks on current owners of pistols and semi-automatic rifles.

"The idea was, this can help make sure someone is still legally allowed to possess one of those firearms," says Joseph O'Sullivan, who reported about the provision for Crosscut.

When O'Sullivan reported on yearly background checks in September, the state had quietly shelved plans to implement it, saying that there wasn't a cost effective or legal way to do this type of check. This came as a surprise to gun-safety advocates.

"And that led to sort of a bit of activity behind the scenes," O'Sullivan says. "Now. the governor's office is saying they're working to implement it and the Washington State Patrol on Friday said something similar."

O'Sullivan says the details are still unclear about how exactly the state will implement yearly background checks or when those checks will take effect.

O'Sullivan spoke to Soundside about his story for Crosscut, "Shelved since 2018, this WA gun law may finally be implemented soon," and why he chose to follow up with the gun law.

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