Gov. Jay Inslee signs new gun laws, including ban at transit facilities, libraries

Gun Rights

SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law several bills on Tuesday, adding to Washington’s growing heap of gun restrictions.

At a brief signing ceremony with supporters at the state Capitol, Inslee approved legislation imposing new safety and reporting requirements for gun dealers and owners, as well as law enforcement agencies.

Among the measures signed:

— House Bill 2118, which requires gun dealers to run annual background checks on employees and maintain alarm systems and 24-hour video surveillance and other security measures. Dealers also must respond quickly to law enforcement queries and carry general liability insurance covering $1 million per incident.

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— House Bill 1903 requires gun owners to report lost or stolen guns to law enforcement within 24 hours of when they discover the theft or loss — compared with a current deadline of five days.

— Senate Bill 5444 prohibits people from carrying firearms in public libraries, zoos, aquariums and transit facilities, unless they have concealed-carry permits.

— House Bill 2021 allows the Washington State Patrol to destroy firearms it has confiscated and requires police and sheriff’s offices to destroy most guns obtained through gun-buyback programs.

Inslee also signed a bill clarifying that people declared incompetent to stand trial on felony criminal charges cannot possess guns, and a bill clarifying that the State Patrol is responsible for all background checks of gun buyers.

The package signed by Inslee on Tuesday builds on last year’s major swath of gun laws passed by the Democratic majority Legislature, including a ban on AR-15s and dozens of other semi-automatic rifles and a 10-day waiting period for firearm purchases.

Inslee’s signing of the measures drew praise from advocates for stricter gun laws.

Kate Stockert, a volunteer with the Washington chapter of Moms Demand Action, in a statement called the bills “a win for Washington families” and thanked Inslee for helping make the state “a national leader in gun safety.”

But the bills were strongly opposed by critics including Republicans and gun industry groups.

The gun-dealer restrictions of HB 2118, in particular, were called out by the National Rifle Association and other opponents, who said they would devastate gun dealers in the state.

In a statement last month as the bill advanced in the Legislature, state Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, said lawmakers were “basically imposing a death sentence on dealers” with the legislation, arguing it would do nothing to make the state safer.

The law won’t take effect until July of 2025, giving dealers some time to comply with the new security requirements.

The bills may face court challenges.

Alan Gottlieb, executive vice president of the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, said in an email his group “is currently working with our attorneys on a potential lawsuit to challenge these new laws.”

Opponents of the state’s growing set of firearm restrictions have called the AR-15 ban and similar laws unconstitutional and predicted they’ll be overturned by courts.

That has not happened so far.

Some legal challenges have been dismissed, and opponents have been unsuccessful in convincing courts to put Washington’s AR-15 ban and other gun laws on hold.

“My legal team remains undefeated against the gun lobby in court,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement earlier this month after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging a law passed last year making gun manufacturers and sellers liable if they fail to take reasonable safety precautions to stop firearms from winding up in the hands of illegal gun traffickers.

Several other lawsuits challenging state gun laws remaining pending.

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