U.S.A. — Washington legislation banning so-called “assault weapons,” which took effect immediately when Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee signed it into law April 25, is having a major impact on pawn shops, which took such guns as collateral for loans, but may now be unable to return those firearms to the owners, or dispose of them if the owner doesn’t come back.
Substitute House Bill 1240 was pushed through by Democrats in the state House and Senate. An emergency clause was attached, making it effective upon signing.
Efforts by State Senator Phil Fortunato (R-31st District) to get some clarification from Democrat Attorney General Bob Ferguson have apparently been ignored. Fortunato sent two letters to Ferguson prior to Inslee’s signing ceremony—during which the Second Amendment Foundation, and National Shooting Sports Foundation, with support from the National Rifle Association, filed separate federal lawsuits challenging the ban—asking for clarification on two issues, literally before the ink was dry.
One inquiry was about whether individuals who had already commenced the purchase process of a semi-auto rifle could receive the gun after the law was signed. The other sought clarification for the pawnbrokers “who are holding banned firearms as collateral for clients.”
“My concern,” Fortunato wrote, “is that these pawnbrokers would be left with firearms that they may be unable to return to the owner upon repayment of the loan or be unable to sell these firearms if the loan is not paid.”
According to Fortunato, who spoke via telephone with AmmoLand News, there has been no response from Ferguson’s office. Ferguson had wanted the ban for the past few years, requesting legislative Democrats to introduce a bill. He is now running for governor to succeed Inslee, who is not running for another term.
According to Seattle’s KING5 News—the local NBC affiliate—one area pawn shop in the community of Bonney Lake says the new law and lack of clarification on what is and is not legal has lost tens of thousands of dollars due to unsold inventory.
AmmoLand spoke to Chad Bare, manager at Pistol Annie’s Jewelry and Pawn, who was also interviewed by KING.
“We’re sitting on a bunch of firearms,” Bare said. “Once 1240 was signed, it took effect. If somebody pawns a rifle and decides he’s not coming back, I’m stuck with a gun I can’t do anything with.”
Bare estimated he has at least 15 to 20 modern semi-automatic rifles in the shop right now, plus some pistols with threaded barrels.
“1240 screwed us,” he said.
Pistol Annie’s owner Melissa Denny added another component to the situation: People who have fallen on hard times due to the economy are suddenly realizing they cannot leverage the value of a firearm they paid for by using it as loan collateral.
“My staff has taken so much heat over this,” Denny told AmmoLand. “People don’t realize we’re stuck between the rock and a hard place. It’s a nightmare.”
Denny said all of the firearms in question are safely stored in a secure area of her business, which has 24-hour armed security.
She has been working with Fortunato, who told AmmoLand, “A law should be written so the average person can read it without the need for an assistant attorney general.”
(There does not appear to be clear, concise language in the bill to address pawned guns or guns for which the purchase process had begun but was not completed by the time the bill was signed.)
Fortunato added, “I’m sick and tired of these people making criminals out of law-abiding citizens.”
He then observed, “In the last six weeks before the law went into effect, it probably dumped more AR’s on the market than in the last six months.”
Washington gun dealers worked feverishly in the days leading up to Inslee’s signing of the bill, and many stopped initiating purchases more than a week before that happened simply because the state’s 10-day waiting period on so-called “assault rifles” would not be completed in time to allow the firearm to be transferred.
Gun control proponents insisted the new law will save lives, but there is no evidence that will actually be the case. Previous gun control initiatives and last year’s “high capacity” magazine ban legislation have accomplished less than nothing, considering how homicides and violent crime involving firearms has gone up, not down, since 2015, the first year following passage of Initiative 594, which mandated so-called “universal background checks” for every transfer, with but a few exceptions.
The number of homicides continued to go up in Seattle after the city council there adopted a “gun violence” tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition in the city in 2015. The number of murders has actually doubled since then in the city.
In 2018, anti-gunners pushed through another multi-million-dollar initiative, raising the minimum age for purchasing a semi-auto rifle to 21 years old, and still the number of murders has crept upward. That measure also created a definition applying to “semi-automatic assault rifles” that applies to every self-loading rifle ever manufactured anywhere in the world, regardless of caliber.
The SAF, NSSF/NRA lawsuits are moving slowly, with very little happening. SAF is involved in challenges of gun bans in other states—Maryland and California—and the outcome of those cases could determine whether Washington’s law actually survives.
About Dave Workman
Dave Workman is a senior editor at TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms, and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.