Initiative expanding gun background checks takes effect today

OLYMPIA -- A voter approved initiative expanding gun background checks in Washington state goes into effect today.

Initiative 594 requires criminal background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including those buying from a private seller and those being gifted a gun. Only those receiving an antique gun made before 1898 or being transferred a gun from an immediate family member are exempt from checks.

The law passed by a 59 percent majority on Nov. 4. following intense debate on both sides of the issue.

Those who violate the law -- both buyer and seller-- could be subject to a gross misdemeanor.

Prior to the initiative's approval, background checks were only required for licensed firearm dealers, leaving proponents of the bill to call for a fix in the "hole" in the law that allowed gun shows and private parties to sell at will.

"There is a hole in our laws that allow criminals and other dangerous people to go to 'private sellers' at gun shows, on the Internet and elsewhere with no background check and no questions asked," the group A Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility said in ads supporting the measure.

However, groups against the law argued it was unnecessary and costly, as well as a step toward taking away 2nd Amendment rights. Many worry that complying with the additional background checks could add to the state's law enforcement workload, perhaps taking away resources better used in fighting other crime.

Background checks screen buyers to make sure they aren't a felon, a fugitive or in the country illegally.

A rally against the initiative is expected to take place in Olympia on Dec. 13, the Seattle Times reports, where many plan to openly exchange guns and flaunt their distaste of the new initiative.