By Emma Scher
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
OLYMPIA — The public last week weighed in on a proposed law that would prohibit the state from accumulating pistol transfer applications containing personal information.
House Bill 1024 would prohibit the state Department of Licensing from storing records related to pistol sales and ownership transfers in its online database.
Under the bill, firearms dealers would no longer send applications to the state licensing department and law enforcement agencies would no longer have access to that agency’s database.
Bill sponsor Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, said the proposed law addresses both privacy rights and Second Amendment protections. He said he thinks both issues are of equal importance.
“The problem that we’ve got is that state agencies never delete anything and they aggregate it over years — personal information that most people don’t want them to have.” Walsh said. “It makes them targets for hackers and agencies.”
Last year, the Department of Licensing faced criticism after The Seattle Times reported agency officials provided personal information to immigration officials.
House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said that she was not supportive of the bill, and that although Democrats haven’t discussed their thoughts on the bill yet, she doesn’t anticipate it to generate support.
“There’s certainly privacy issues around it, but I think the fundamental issue has to do with public protection, and the state having said not once but twice that they want a background-check system to work as robustly as possible,” Jinkins said.
Processing pistol transfer applications is a manual process and there are currently a half-million applications backlogged. If passed, the Department of Licensing expects to save $451,000 in expenditures related to processing the applications, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
Currently, individuals buying or selling pistols are required by law to fill out a transfer application and submit it to the state licensing agency.
Initiative 1639, a ballot measure concerning firearms that was approved by voters in November, established similar requirements for the sales or transfers of semiautomatic assault rifle applications.
Stephen Paolini, campaign manager for I-1639 said he thinks that there is a clear interpretation of what voters want from policymakers, and that this bill would be a step backwards.
Initiative 1639, “really is a strong indicator that voters want their representatives to continue moving forward on the background check system,” Paolini said. “To then say okay we’re gonna remove that or take a step backwards is pretty antithetical.”
This story is part of a series of reports from the Washington State Legislature provided by a news team sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.