In 2014, Washington voters approved Initiative 594 to require background checks for person-to-person gun sales. But the law has only resulted in two prosecutions.
The first prosecution, last October in Island County, involved a gun that was later used in a murder.
The second case is also from last year, but it’s just now coming to light.
It involves the alleged theft of a .22 rifle from a Cabela’s outdoor store in Lacey, Washington, by a man named Terry Lee Hadley, Jr.
According to charging documents, Hadley then either sold or traded the rifle to another man. That’s what triggered the charge under Washington’s expanded background check law.
“In this particular case, the perpetrator, Mr. Hadley, admitted that he transferred this firearm to the other person who happened to be a drug dealer in this case,” said Jeff Lippert with the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office. “And so when someone admits to something like that it makes it very easy to prove.”
In addition to unlawful transfer of a firearm, Hadley is charged with theft, trafficking in stolen property and drug possession.
Lippert said he expects the case will end with a plea agreement. Hadley’s attorney did not immediately return a phone call.
According to the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, there have been nearly 27,000 background checks on private gun sales since the law took effect in December 2014. In addition, the Alliance said the law prevented 201 private gun sales between December 2014 and April 2017.
Opponents were before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday in an attempt to revive a lawsuit that challenges key provisions in the law. They say it puts law-abiding gun owners at risk for prosecution.
A violation of the background check law is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. A second offense becomes a felony.