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‘Death sentence’ for gun dealers passes the Washington Senate

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(The Center Square) – Proposed legislation that would require gun dealers in Washington state to follow new safety and security guidelines moved another step closer to becoming law.

On Tuesday, the state Senate passed an amended version of Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2118. Owing to the changes in the Senate, the bill must return to the House of Representatives, which will decide whether or not to agree with the changes.

ESHB 2118 would require gun dealers to run annual background checks on their employees, carry $1 million in liability insurance, install steel doors or bars at the location, and meet more stringent requirements for storage and security systems with audio and video surveillance.

Under the bill passed by the House, federal firearms licensed dealers would have to maintain 730 days of surveillance video. Amendments adopted by the Senate on Tuesday lowered that to 90 days while requiring maintaining recordings in all other areas as needed for 45 days.

“It’s about keeping firearms safe – the inventory safe,” bill sponsor Rep. Amy Walen, D-Kirkland, said at a Feb. 19 public hearing before the Senate Law & Justice Committee. “It’s about promptly reporting incidents. And it’s about the ability of law enforcement to track straw purchases.”

She went on to say, “I think most of what’s on here honestly is probably already done by a lot of gun dealers.”

Shooting victim Cheryl Stumbo provided remote testimony in favor of the bill.

She was shot in the stomach – enduring 20 surgeries over a three-year period – when Naveed Afzal Haq shot six women, one fatally, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building on July 28, 2006.

“The total cost of saving my life, which Washington taxpayers paid via workers’ compensation because I was shot at work, exceeded $2 million,” she told the committee. “I can’t help but wonder if the employee at the firearm dealer noticed symptoms of his mental health illness but sold the guns to him anyway.”

Speaking on behalf of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Troy Nichols said the bill essentially addresses a problem that doesn’t exist.

“The stated purpose of House Bill 2118 is to prevent firearm thefts and straw purchases at dealerships,” he told the committee. “However, federal and state data clearly demonstrate that less than 2 percent of all firearm thefts in Washington state occur at FFLs.”

The firearm industry’s biggest concern, Nichols said, is the prohibitive cost of retaining video footage as required by the bill.

“Even planning for the minimum number of cameras required, when fully implemented, conservative estimates point to costs of more than $197,000 per year for each FFL to digitally story two years’ worth of camera footage,” he said of the House version of the legislation.

Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, contends the bill, if passed, would be a “death sentence on dealers.”

“The anti-gun extremists are finally realizing they can’t seize firearms from law-abiding people, or regulate them away, so this bill goes after the supply side of the equation,” Wilson said in a Wednesday news release. “It would basically smother the retailers who are unable to comply with the new mandates, and that means most, if not all, in our state. I also don’t see how gun shows will be able to survive this.”

The Center Square reached out to Dave Workman, communications director with the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, for his take on ESHB 2118.

“Even the Seattle Times has editorialized against HB 2118, as noted in the article I wrote for TheGunMag.com Tuesday,” he emailed The Center Square.

“Should it pass, it almost certainly will be challenged in court because the impact on the firearms community and the small retailers would be devastating,” Workman said. “Even the Times admitted this, observing the bill ‘pushes gun control to a level of punishment for legitimate businesses.’”