October 26, 2017 Announcements · Press Releases

United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Ruled in Favor of Washington’s Universal Background Check Law

Court Upheld Previous Ruling, Which Found that Second Amendment Foundation Lacks Constitutional Standing to Challenge Initiative 594

Seattle, WA—Today, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Northwest School of Safety v. Ferguson, the lawsuit brought by the Second Amendment Foundation and others against Initiative 594. The court’s ruling upheld the lower court’s decision to dismiss the claims challenging the validity of Initiative 594, for lack of constitutional standing.

Now state law, Initiative 594 closed a dangerous loophole in our law by establishing criminal background checks for all gun sales and transfers in Washington. Since Initiative 594 took effect in December 2014, there have been at least 29,692 private background checks, including more than 11,500 so far in 2017. This has prevented 201 private gun sales to prohibited purchasers between December 2014 and April 2017.

“The ruling today affirms what we’ve known from the beginning—the gun lobby’s lawsuit was unfounded. This law, which has now been on the books for nearly three years, has been doing exactly what it was intended to do– help keep guns out of dangerous hands,” said Renée Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “I also want to thank Attorney General Bob Ferguson for his vigorous defense of Washington law, especially those—like universal background checks—that have such a material impact on the health and safety of our communities.”

The gun lobby, after losing their campaign to pass a competing initiative and weaken Washington’s gun laws, filed an initial complaint in December 2014. In May 2015, the U.S. District Court dismissed the gun lobby’s lawsuit, dealing a major blow to their effort to overturn the voter-approved background check initiative. The Judge ruled that background check opponents didn’t have standing to challenge Initiative 594’s voter-approved requirements for private gun transfers because they had not suffered injury or shown a risk of being prosecuted. The gun lobby appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed a bill that clarified the provisions of Initiative 594. The bill took effect on July 23, 2017 and clarified background check exceptions for suicide prevention, temporary transfers, employer to employee for business, loans between family members and antiques.

Washington State became the 17th state to require background checks on all gun sales and transfers when it passed Initiative 594 with 59 percent of the vote on November 4, 2014. It closed a dangerous loophole by requiring criminal background checks for all sales and transfers, including those made online or at gun shows. Since 2014, Oregon and Nevada have also passed similar laws requiring background checks on all gun sales.

The case is Northwest School of Safety et. al. v. Bob Ferguson, et al., No. 15-35452 in the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

About the Alliance for Gun Responsibility

The Alliance for Gun Responsibility works to end the gun violence crisis in our community and to promote a culture of gun ownership that balances rights with responsibilities. Through collaboration with experts, civic leaders, and citizens, we work to find evidenced-based solutions to the crisis of gun violence in our community. We create innovative policy, advocate for changes in laws, and promote community education to reduce gun violence. Learn more at www.gunresponsibility.org and follow us at @WAGunResponsib.