New Washington state, federal gun laws take effect today

A wave of new state and federal rules are set to change how Washingtonians purchase, transfer and store firearms starting Monday.

On Jan. 1, voter-approved I-1639 raised the minimum age to purchase a “semiautomatic assault rifle” to 21, though those between 18 and 21 years old can possess them in certain situations.

The rest of the initiative kicks in Monday, bringing new background checks, fees and training requirements and potential legal liabilities for owners who don’t lock up their guns.

Also on Monday, and separately from I-1639, Washington law enforcement agencies will become responsible for processing handgun transfers, a job previously handled by the FBI. As a result, concealed pistol license holders will no longer be able to walk out with purchased handguns on the same day.

Initiative 1639 passed with 59 percent of the vote in Washington last year, with supporters pointing to studies showing that guns involved in suicides and accidental injuries are often obtained from the residences of a friend or relative. Advocates also pointed out that gun purchasing needed tightening because the large majority of guns used in mass shootings are obtained legally.

But the measure was unpopular in Cowlitz County, where 61 percent of the voters opposed it despite its relevance to the shooting of Edgar Vazquez, a 13-year-old Kelso boy who died when he was accidentally shot and killed by his friend who found and discharged a loaded shotgun in his grandfather’s room at their Kelso home.

Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman has said that while he considers parts of the initiative unconstitutional, he does support the safe storage provision, which he said in February addressed a “gap in the law.”

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