More than 150 potential criminal cases have been referred to police agencies across Washington state because of a new law targeting illegal firearms purchasers.
That information is included in a year-end report on the effectiveness of House Bill 1501, obtained by KING 5 News and public radio's Northwest News Network.
The law attempts to identify and investigate high-risk felons, abusers and people with active protection orders who try to buy firearms at gun stores.
Since HB 1501 took effect on August 8, there have been 1,231 people who failed background checks. Many of them may have concealed their criminal histories on the federal purchase form, which is a violation of state and federal law.
However, the KING 5 Investigators and Northwest News Network could not find a single case where police or prosecutors pursued criminal charges against those violators.
HB 1501 puts those cases in motion.
Under the law, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) referred 152 cases to local law enforcement for possible investigation. Those were cases of individuals with serious criminal records, or who had active protective orders filed against them. Forty-nine of the cases involved people who made more than one attempt to illegally purchase a gun.
“This assumption that people who are prohibited won't try to legally purchase a firearm is not true. They do try. Which is why laws like 1501 are so vital,” said Renee Hopkins of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which advocated for the law.
HB 1501 also established a first-in-the-nation alert system for that victims can sign up for. They'll receive information that a perpetrator attempted to buy a gun.
“If somebody's hunting you and they're trying to get a gun, knowing that's happening helps your safety plan, helps you think about what you're going to do,” said Trese Todd, whose ex-husband threatened to shoot her and then himself.