Media Contact:
Garrett McDonough, (415) 433-2062 x304, [email protected]

Washington state residents are making their communities safer by keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, criminals, and the mentally ill.
WA group used Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s model law as a guide to draft ballot initiative. 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the leading source for policy information on gun legislation, applauds Washington State voters for approving I-594, the ballot initiative requiring private sellers to conduct background checks on private purchasers of firearms. I-594 is the first universal background checks law in the nation to be passed by voter initiative. Experts at the Law Center believe the new law will help reduce the number of gun deaths in the state.

“We’re proud of Washington voters for standing up to the gun lobby and electing to make their communities safer from gun violence. Washington shows us that when the legislature fails to act, the voters will.” said Law Center executive director Robyn Thomas. “We’re also pleased we were able to assist the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility by providing them with our model law and sharing research and legal analysis. A key aspect of the Law Center’s mission is providing expertise and support on critical legislation such as I-594.”

When private sellers are permitted to sell firearms without conducting background checks, dangerous individuals can easily obtain guns, often with deadly consequences. For example, in 2012, a gunman killed three people, including his wife, and injured four others at a spa in Wisconsin after buying a gun through a private seller he found online. The shooter was prohibited from purchasing guns due to a restraining order his wife had acquired against him, but was able to buy the gun from a private seller who was unaware of the restraining order. A background check would have revealed this information and prevented the sale.

Washington’s new law:

  • Requires unlicensed sellers to conduct a sale through a licensed firearms dealer who will perform a background check on the buyer
  • Ensures that a licensed dealer keeps a record of the private transaction

In addition to keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and dangerous individuals with mental illness, universal background check laws also keep guns from being sold to criminals. “Background checks are the most critical tool a state has to keep its residents safe from gun violence,” said Law Center staff attorney Allison Anderman. “These laws are also strongly supported by the American public, as we saw through the voter initiative in Washington yesterday.”

Washington is now one of nine states, plus the District of Columbia, with laws requiring background checks on private sales at the point of transfer. An additional eight states require background checks when an individual applies for a permit to purchase a firearm.

Learn more about state and federal gun laws at

Media contact:
Garrett McDonough
[email protected]

About the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (formerly known as the Legal Community Against Violence) was founded after the 1993 shooting in San Francisco that left eight dead. Today, it is a national law center focused on providing comprehensive legal expertise in support of gun violence prevention. As a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, the Law Center is dedicated to preventing the loss of lives caused by gun violence by providing trusted, in-depth legal expertise and information on America’s gun laws. The Law Center partners with state legislators, advocates, community groups and others to advance its mission to prevent gun violence in America.