The Sequim Police Department has a new resource at its disposal to help stop firearms from going into the hands of criminals.
Following Substitute House Bill 1501 “Denied Firearm Transactions” going into effect last summer, Sequim’s Det. Devin McBride recently began investigating instances where firearms purchases or transfers are denied by Federal Firearm Licensed, FFL, dealers, in Sequim city limits.
Det. Sgt. Darrell Nelson said prior to last summer when the legislature passed the bill, law enforcement agencies weren’t notified when a patron was denied a firearm in its jurisdiction.
Agencies aren’t required to follow up on them either, but the bill creates some incentive with grant reimbursements for police departments and sheriff offices statewide to investigate.
“Good on the legislature that they saw a gap in reporting,” Nelson said.
“This provides one more level of defense from someone who shouldn’t be possessing a firearm.”
Under the bill, licensed firearm dealers are required to file each denial at the website www.wafirearmsreport.org. Once filed, agencies like Sequim Police Department can sign up with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, WASPC, to search its database.
According to its 2017 report, the Association states 1,231 firearms purchases or transfers were denied from July 23, 2017, through the end of last year with 152 referrals to agencies.
From last summer to the end of May 2018, Sequim Police reports 23 denied purchases or transfers occurred in city limits.
Of those 23, McBride said he’s still investigating six more cases with three of those potentially involving charges.
People denied a gun can include someone with a felony, an active protective order against him/her, i.e. for domestic violence, repeated denials for purchases/transfers, and/or the dealer is suspicious/requests a denial.
However, Nelson said people can be denied for reasons not criminally based, too, such as using an alias on your application, if you hold a common name, such as John C. Smith, and/or a history of mental health illness.
So far, McBride estimates he’s investigated Sequim’s denials about 20 hours since starting with the database in late May and feels 23 is low compared to bigger areas. He said some denials have been quick to discredit criminal charges while others are requiring much deeper searches because people seeking guns in Sequim may not be from here.
“If there’s someone phishing for firearms in different counties this program will get that,” Nelson said.
“It’s one of those services that’s low impact but high yield.”
McBride said the new bill shows the background check system works but the National Instant Criminal Search, NICS, used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation has some issues still, such as a person with a felony conviction serving their time and going before a judge to receive their rights again but still be denied gun ownership later on.
Regardless of any possible difficulties with systems like NICS, Nelson said the new database helps “close loopholes.”
“The Sequim Police Department is applying due- diligence,” he said. “Those who are not allowed to hold a firearm will be held accountable.”
McBride said people who have been denied a firearm for what they believe unjustly can go to the Sequim Police for verification that the permit was wrongfully denied.
If Sequim Police officers choose to, they can apply for up to $500 per case in reimbursement from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs in funding granted from the state.
Nelson said the department isn’t counting on grant funds for the firearm checks but with only 23 denials so far, “it’s a small investment out of Devin’s time.”
“(With or without the grant) We’re committed to it,” he said.
The City of Sequim’s current licensed gun dealers include Brian’s Sporting Goods, Coastal Farm & Ranch, and smaller, independent federal firearm licensed dealers.
Nelson commended businesses like Coastal for doing a good job reporting denied firearms purchases to the state website.
Clallam County Sheriff’s Office also opted into the state database, and so far unincorporated Clallam County licensed firearms dealers have reported four denied purchases/transfers in 2018, said Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King.
Of those four in the unincorporated area of the county, King said none of those became criminal cases.
Clallam County Sheriff’s Office processes pistol purchases and transfers in the county, so they already investigate denied pistol purchases/ transfers, King said, but with the database it’s the first time they’re seeing denied purchases/transfers for rifles and shotguns.
“This is truly a stop-gap filler and another level to ensure people who shouldn’t have firearms don’t get them,” King said.
Contact Sequim Police Department, 152 W. Cedar St., at 360-683-7227. and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles, at 360-417-2262 (administration) or 360-417-2459 (dispatch).
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.