I-1639: Gun store owners concerned

Two local gun store owners discuss concerns about Initiative 1639

After the Nov. 6 election results were in, Initiative 1639 — concerning firearms — passed with 76.4 percent of King County residents voting for it, and 59.4 percent of Washington residents voting for it as well.

The initiative is an effort to make communities safer and reduce gun violence, it said on the “for” argument group page on the King County Elections website.

According to the King County Elections website, the initiative will add new requirements for purchase of a semiautomatic assault rifle, make it illegal for anyone under 21 to buy a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle, a 10 day waiting period before delivering a semiautomatic assault rifle to a buyer, impose a $25 fee on each purchase of a semiautomatic, create new criminal offenses for the unsafe storage of a firearm, require dealers to offer to sell the purchaser of any firearm a secure storage device or a trigger locker, along with requiring a new “warning sign” to go onto gun storefront windows.

Local gun store owners have expressed their concerns with the new law passing.

Diana Pinto, owner of Pinto’s Gun Shop in Renton, said she was surprised it passed, but at the same time not surprised.

“We were all hoping that other gun owners would get out and vote against it and that could hopefully reach the people who were on the fence and explain to them that it was more than raising age, because I think that’s what a lot of people thought. It’s more than that. So yeah… surprised, but not surprised,” Pinto said.

Pinto said she thinks gun sales are going to go up for a while, until the law goes into full effect.

Jody Lewis, one of the owners of Rehv Arms in Covington, said he has already seen a 30 percent increase in firearm sales.

“It’s been more just people not wanting to have to deal with going to get extra certificates for training, licensing. They don’t know what that’s going to cost. And then additional fees the state’s going to impose on each purchase they make,” Lewis said.

Since the new law is increasing the age limit for those who can buy a semiautomatic assault rifle, Pinto said she thinks she will see an increase in 18, 19 and 20 year olds.

By bumping the age limit, Pinto said she doesn’t think this is going to do a bit of good as far as preventing school shootings, or keeping the community safer.

“I don’t think it’s really going to do any good. I know I’ve heard a lot of people with different arguments for and against. I think there’s been shootings with people under 18 and over 18,” Pinto explained. “So bumping it up by three years, I really don’t think it’s going to make a bit of difference because you have kids that shouldn’t have firearms, get them. So if your 18, 19, 20 and you want to commit a crime, you’ll figure out a way to get a gun.”

One of the arguments on the for side of the law passing in reference to age was “In the U.S. military, soldiers are not allowed to handle firearms without training. Yet, anyone in Washington can buy military grade weapons without training or additional screening. This measure prevents anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing a semi-automatic assault rifle.”

Lewis said he has heard this argument before and in some ways he said he agrees, that some teenagers are not fit to own a semiautomatic rifle. He said he has teenagers that he as a parent would not let them buy a firearm.

With that said though, as a gun store owner he is charged with determining if somebody is actually ready to own a firearm, no matter their age.

“If somebody comes into my store and doesn’t know how to operate a firearm, we’re going to educate them. If we feel like there’s out of sorts with them, we won’t sell them a firearm, plain and simple,” he said.

Pinto said sometimes she’s surprised she can legally sell guns to some of the people that come into her store. She said jokingly, sometimes people don’t know which end of the gun is which.

Joking aside, she said the one part of the initiative that she thinks is OK — with some fine tuning — is the gun safety training classes that would be required for people to take in order buy a gun.

“I’ve long, long thought that there should be a minimum requirement to buying a firearm. I’ve always thought, make people take a one-time class just to show some proficiency, so show something,” Pinto said. “Every five years, I don’t know that’s necessary. The thing that we’re running into and that we’ve discussed is there’s guidelines in the initiative and it talks about what it has to cover, but my concern is until we get kind of a syllabus from the state, then we can start teaching the class, but until then, my worry is I don’t want to teach a safety class and then it doesn’t qualify. Until they iron out the logistics of it, that’s going to be a concern.”

Lewis said he also thinks there are some parts of the initiative that “aren’t terrible,” but he said there are too many things in the initiative that just keep on stacking onto each other, making it difficult to navigate.

He said the initiative is “extremely” broad.

Pinto also said she thinks the initiative is way too broad and hopes that the National Rifle Association (NRA) getting involved will help solve that issue.

According to ballotpedia.org, the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation, based in Bellevue, filed a lawsuit against the state of Washington and Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Nov. 15, alleging the measure violates the right to bear arms and wrongly regulates interstate commerce, under the federal government.

“I think it’s (NRA filing lawsuit) a good idea. I know they shut down other initiatives because it covered too much. The scope was too large. So whether you approve of guns or not, people should at least be looking at, ‘Does this follow what Washington State requirements are?’ And if it doesn’t, it should be thrown out. If it’s brought back as a single item initiative, I mean I’m still not going to agree with it, but if it follows the law, how it’s presented to people, then so be it,” Pinto said.

Lewis said he is glad the NRA has got involved. He said it’s rare for them to get involved at a regional level.

He also said since the state has crammed so much into the initiative, he thinks there’s a good chance some of the initiative will be striped out.

Pinto said she is unsure if the initiative violates the Second Amendment on a state level, but it might on a federal level.

“Federally, you can have a long gun at 18 and if that’s what we’re going to go by as far as the Federal Constitution, then I would say yes, absolutely it does. It goes against (the Second Amendment). Some of the other parts of it, the safety, the storage, I don’t know that I would consider those as Second Amendment because it’s not stopping you from owning a gun, it’s putting some restrictions on the storage,” Pinto said.

Generally speaking though, she thinks some people have a misunderstanding about the Second Amendment.

She said she runs into a lot of people that say, “Well, it’s my Second Amendment right, why can’t I own this? Why do I have a waiting period?”

“Yeah it’s your Second Amendment right, but it doesn’t say you have to own it immediately,” she explained.

Pinto said she does not agree with a lot of what the initiative says, but the part of it that bothers her the most the initiative’s definition of an assault rifle.

According to the King County Elections website, “The initiative defines a ‘semiautomatic assault rifle’ to mean: Any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”

“There are some very definitive characteristics of a defined assault rifle and yes, those are military firearms, but people throw that around so much and in 1639 anything that’s a semiautomatic rifle is now considered an assault rifle. Even if it’s a .22 caliber rifle, if it’s a semiautomatic, it is now an assault rifle, Pinto explained. “So I think it was really broad reaching.

Another aspect of wording that Pinto said she doesn’t like is the signs that gun store owners have to place on the front of their stores.

According to the King County Elections website, the signs will say, “CAUTION: The presence of a firearm in the home has been associated with an increased risk of suicide, death during domestic violence incidents, and unintentional deaths to children and others.”

She said the problem she has with it is how she interpreted it.

“They almost worded it like having a gun in your house causes domestic violence and causes suicide. No, no. Putting a gun in your house, in my house, is not going to cause our significant others to now become domestic violence abusers or suicidal. That’s the problem I have. Having a gun does not cause suicide. It doesn’t cause it anymore than saying you have prescription pills in your house, you’re going to commit suicide,” Pinto said.

Lewis said he thinks the signs will do absolutely nothing to prevent either of the societal issues stated on the signs.

He said the signs in the storefront of guns stores will not fix suicide or domestic violence. Lewis said he thinks those are societal issues that need to be addressed, not guns.

“I’ll tell you one of the biggest flaws I see in this industry, is on the federal and state level, and on the mental health level. None of those people are talking. Nobody’s talking. There’s a big lack of connectivity there to where there’s no sharing of information,” Lewis explained.

He continued to say he wishes the state was passing laws that would make the community safer — like the for the initiative statements said — but he said he thinks at the end of the day, it’s causing for a less safe environment with all the added hoops people have to jump through to get a firearm now.

Pinto said she too thinks the initiative will do little to make communities or schools safer.

“Schools are a gun free zone, a lot of these shootings were kids under 18 or over 21, so if they’re over 21 they’ll legally be able to have a firearm. I don’t know what would make schools safer. I think it’s a bigger societal problem than just firearms,” she said.

While the initiative includes quite a bit, Pinto said she thinks a lot of what the initiative states is just common sense.

For instance, the part of the law that says, “new criminal offenses for the unsafe storage of a firearm,” is common sense every gun owner should have, she said.

“I think all responsible gun owners should lock them up and I think a majority of them do, especially when you’re leaving the house. I think criminalizing people is not the way to go about it. What’s reasonable storage? I heard somebody argue, ‘When I leave my house I lock it up. I lock my whole house up. Is that reasonable storage?’ I look at it as, especially if I’m gone, you know yeah it’s a good idea to keep stuff locked up because I just don’t want to deal with the theft of anything. I make sure my jewelry is locked up and things like that. Is it going to solve the problem? I don’t think so,” Pinto explained.

Locking up guns in a safe is a good idea, especially when there are children present in the house, Pinto said.

According to Michael Stufflebeam, a gun owner in Renton, once his first son was born, he started locking his guns up.

“It is common sense. When Matthew was born — my first born son — the first thing I did was buy a safe. Because I wanted to make sure those guns were protected from the boys,” Stufflebeam said.

As it stands now, the new age requirement will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019 and the rest of the measure will be put into effect on July 1, 2019, according to ballotpedia.org.