The new gun law, Lewis County style

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 10:26 am


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS  – Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer won’t be applying the letter of the law regarding the recently enacted Initiative I-594 – requiring expanded background checks for firearm sales and transfers – among otherwise law abiding citizens.

However, give or sell a gun to someone prohibited from possessing one, and he will take action.


Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer

Meyer, in a joint news release issued yesterday with Lewis County Sheriff-Elect Rob Snaza, said the broad language and vague definitions of the new law have given rise to many questions and concerns.

Each man offered a brief written statement, attached to their summary of the main provisions of I-594.

The measure which passed in November applies currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun shows and online sales, with specific exceptions. It went into effect Dec. 4.

“The Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Office will not make criminals out of the hardworking citizens of Lewis County,” Meyer states. “Where I-594 attempts to criminalize every-day activities, I, in the exercise of my prosecutorial discretion, will not charge individuals with these types of violations.

“At the same time, make no mistake I will hold accountable those who, in violation of this initiative, knowingly put guns in the hands of criminals.”

2014.0110.rob.snaza.campaign copy

Sheriff-elect Rob Snaza

A first offense is a gross misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses are a class C felony. Meyer is responsible for all felony prosecutions in the county, and for misdemeanor and gross misdemeanors in cases from the sheriff’s office, the state patrol and some other police departments.

Regarding the gun shows regularly held at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds where sales have traditionally been made by both licensed firearm dealers and private citizens, Meyer said he presumes the organizers will make sure proper processes are followed.

An example Meyer gave yesterday, in a brief interview, of what he won’t pursue involve transfers of a gun in some cases.

He spoke of innocent activities such as if a person and their brother-in-law went target shooting and used each others weapons.

The law provides exemptions to background checks, among them are transactions involving gifts between immediate family members as well as antique firearms as defined by applicable law.

Meyer said he views the new law as applying to even temporary transfers such as handling a firearm for inspection, for consideration of purchase or stocking store shelves. But he’s not interested in prosecuting those types of activities, he indicated.

His example of what he is interested in pursuing related to selling or giving a gun to a felon.

As for going after a person who sells or gives a firearm, without the checks, to someone who subsequently uses it in a crime, he said he would be looking at situations on a case by case basis.

Meyer noted he can’t give legal advice to individual citizens and recommended anyone with questions should consult their attorney.

The new law does not change the definition of a firearm. It does mean any sales or transfers must be completed through a licensed dealer, according to Meyer.

The prosecutor said he has not seen any cases involving it yet, and thinks the RCW will be called “Unlawful transfer of firearms.”

I-594 passed statewide with 59 percent of the vote. In Lewis County, 67 percent of voters rejected it.

Sheriff-elect Snaza, in his formal statement, reminds the public he is a strong proponent of the second amendment and notes the “significant” impact of  I-594 on law abiding citizens.

He states that each of these cases will be considered by his office in regard to both the spirit and the letter of the law.

However, his office’s enforcement strategy doesn’t appear to include proactively seeking out violations, or making arrests, according to his statement. He’ll let the prosecutor decide.

“(Our strategy) will be to thoroughly investigate those cases reported to us, and file these cases with the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office, when appropriate,” Snaza stated.

This morning Snaza pointed out the majority of Lewis County residents oppose the new law, which he said he believes has good intentions, but is vague.

“We don’t have all these resources to go after every person breaking the law,” Snaza said.

“Personally, I think this law is unconstitutional,” he said. “We’ll do what we can.”


SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS OF I-594, from Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer

A “firearm” is a weapon or device from which a projectile or projectiles may be fired by an explosive such as gunpowder. This includes tools such as a concrete nailer that is gas or powder-actuated.
*I-594 did not change the definition of a firearm.

All purchasers or transferees of firearms are subject to background checks unless the purchase or transfer is specifically exempted by state or federal law.

All sales or transfers occurring in whole or in part in Washington State, including sales and transfers through dealers, at gun shows, online, and between unlicensed persons, are subject to the background check requirements of I-594.

A “transfer” means the intended delivery of a firearm to another person without payment or promise of payment, including gifts and loans. This includes a “temporary” transfer (including the handling of a firearm for inspection, consideration of purchasing, stocking of store shelves, etc.).

Any sale or transfer of a firearm where neither party is a licensed firearms dealer must be completed through a licensed firearms dealer in compliance with the following requirements:
1. The seller or transferor must physically deliver the firearm to the dealer. The seller or transferor may remove the firearm from the dealer’s premises while the background check is being conducted, but the firearm must be physically delivered back to the dealer prior to the completion of the transaction.
2. The purchaser or transferee must complete, sign and submit all federal, state, and local forms needed for processing the background check.
3. The dealer must process the transaction in the same manner as he/she would in a sale or transfer of a firearm from his/her inventory. The dealer must comply with all applicable federal and state laws.
4. If the purchaser or transferee is ineligible to possess a firearm, the transaction cannot proceed and the dealer must return the firearm to the seller or transferor.
5. The dealer may charge a fee for facilitating a sale or transfer that reflects the fair market value of the administrative costs incurred.

A dealer may not deliver a firearm to a purchaser or transferee until the earlier of:
1. The completion of all required background checks if the purchaser or transferee is not ineligible under federal or state law to possess a firearm; or
2. Ten (10) business days have passed since the dealer requested the background check, except this period is sixty (60) calendar days for a pistol transfer if the purchaser or transferee does not have a valid Washington state driver’s license or identification card or has not been a resident for the previous ninety (90) days.

The following transactions are exempt from the background check requirements established by I-594:
1. Bona fide gifts between immediate family members, which is limited to spouses, domestic partners, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, aunts, and uncles;
2. Sales or transfer of “antique” firearms, as that term is defined by applicable law;
3. Sales or transfers by or to law enforcement and corrections agencies, and to the extent the person is acting within the course and scope of his or her employment or official duties, law enforcement and corrections officers, active members of the military, and federal officials;
4. Receipt of a firearm by a federally licensed gunsmith only if the firearm is received for purposes of service or repair.

The temporary transfer of a firearm is exempt when:
a. Necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to the transferee, if the transfer lasts only as long as needed and the transferee is not prohibited from possessing firearms by applicable law;
b. It is between spouses or domestic partners;
c. It occurs at an established shooting range authorized by the local governing body and the firearm is kept at all times at the range;
d. It occurs at a lawful organized firearm competition or performance and  the firearm is possessed exclusively at the competition or performance;
e. It is to a person under eighteen (18) years of age for lawful hunting, sporting, or educational purposes while under the direct supervision of a responsible adult; or
f. It occurs while legally hunting if the transferee has completed all required training, holds all required licenses or permits, and is not prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Acquisition of a firearm, other than a pistol, by inheritance is exempt.
In the case of acquisition of a pistol by inheritance, the transfer is exempt for the sixty (60) days following the transfer by operation of inheritance. However, upon the expiration of the sixty (60) day period, the person must either have lawfully transferred the pistol or must have contacted the Washington Department of Licensing to notify that department that he or she has possession of the pistol and intends to retain possession of the pistol, in compliance with all federal and state laws.

A person who knowingly violates the background check requirements is guilty of a gross misdemeanor for a first offense and of a Class C felony for each subsequent offense.
Each firearm sold or transferred in violation of the background check requirements is a separate offense.
A Class C felony conviction for this offense is included in the definition of “serious offense” for purposes of the crime of unlawful possession of firearms.

The retail sales tax does not apply to the sale or transfer of a firearm between two unlicensed persons if they have complied with all required background checks.

Keeps the requirement for firearms dealers to collect sales or use tax from the transferee on interstate firearms transfers by a licensed dealer.

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34 Responses to “The new gun law, Lewis County style”

  1. sicofit says:

    Both the 591 and 594 inititives should never have been on the ballot to begin with as they are both unconstitutional. The 2nd amendment is simple and clear. The powers that be know why the founding fathers wrote that amendment and it sure as heck wasn’t about hunting so they use anything they can to justify their TREASON against the constitution of the united states. Guns don’t kill people, people do. I don’t own a gun myself, I’m an indoor girl and find them loud and anoying, I love the constitution though and it makes me sick that we the people are not protecting it.

  2. Free Air says:

    More like Just one more way people keep voting away their rights in the quest to feel safer.

  3. john adams says:

    just 1 more way for the law or governing power to control it citizens in there every move as the forefathers Intension was not to take your gun rights because you had committed a crime .those laws have only came around In the eighty’s the 1980s .before the eighty u we’re still allowed to own a gun and hunt to provide for yourself and your family

  4. billy thorton says:

    If the 2nd amendment only applies to 1791, 1st amendment only applies to quills and parchment.

  5. BobbyinLC says:

    To fat lazy lawyer: You claim that since the 2nd amendment was written by the founding fathers in 1791 it is automatically outdated. By that same reasoning then you have no protection against unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant. The 4th amendment was written by the same group at the same time.

    You do not have a right to counsel, speedy and public trial, cannot be compelled to testify against yourself and cannot be tried twice for the same crime once you have been acquitted. All of the Bill of Rights, amendments 1-10 were written and implemented in the same period of history and no one ever says the right to a search warrant is an outdated concept that needs to be revised. You cannot have it both ways.

  6. outlander says:

    Bill S is correct. The main selling point to the voters on 594 was “background checks”. The problem is very few bothered to read the 18 page initiative. The vague wording, mainly regarding “transfers” could turn the normal actions of a law abiding citizen into a criminal. The pro 594 crowd was downplaying this prior to the election saying that the law wasn’t intended for those types of situations- funny how now that the law has passed the fat lazy trolls are changing their tune. Make no mistake that the people behind 594 want to repeal the 2nd amendment. Lewis County is lucky to have a prosecutor tries to clarify how he will enforce the law. Let’s hope he follows through with his actions.

  7. BobbyinLC says:

    Hey Fat Lawyer: If you do not even live in Lewis County what do you care about what goes on here except to post comments to wind folks up. Stay safe and secure in your liberal county where you kill more trees by hugging them than we do by logging them.

  8. You Fat Lazy Lawyer says:

    That’s the point of the background checks. It keeps guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. I’m all for concealed weapons, single shot rifles for hunting, and handguns and shotguns for protecting your home. But we need to ban semi automatic assault rifles and keep all guns away from criminals and the mentally ill.

    Except for the ex-cop who killed the guy in the moivie theatre because he wouldn’t turn off his cell phone. I bet he wished he never had a concealed permit. Whatever happened to just taking it outside man to man. Well then you get the Travon Martin case. Travon was kicking the guys ass and the gun- carrying wussy used it on him. You gun nuts can’t win.

  9. GoodGrief says:

    “You Fat Lazy Lawyer” – if I believed for ONE minute that giving up my gun would prevent school shootings – I would do it in a minute, and I think others here would as well. But giving up MY gun does not remove the guns from the hands of the criminals committing crimes.

    There was a hostage situation and shooting in Austraila this week. They have INCREDIBLY tough gun laws. The perpetrator was mentally ill, a convicted felon, a suspect in another murder and out on bail. That scenario can and does happen here. Yet – the mentally ill criminal was the ONLY person in that situation with a gun!

    In this county, with 17 hostages, the odds might be good one would have a conceal carry permit. Had any of the hostages been armed, the outcome might have been much better. Their strict gun laws did not prevent the crime. How could it? Only the law abiding follow the laws.

  10. John says:

    hey you dumb lazy lib tard “fatlazylawyer”,,,, ,crawl back under youre bridge troll ,this county and sheriff stand firm on an unconstitutional ruling dont like it go sit at a starbucks or some other gun free zone with a victim dunce cap on ,for in fact an unconstitutional law is null and void ,,,,, understand void as in the gap between youre ears ?

  11. You Fat Lazy Lawyer says:

    Bill S and disappointed. Yes keep your gun in your home for protection, fine. But when your son or daughter get murdered in school by a psycho with a semi-automatic rifle, you would pray for stricter gun laws. You are whining about background checks? How lazy and ignorant are you? No one needs a semi-automatic gun win a large clip either. For home protection a shotgun or gphandgun. For hunting a single shot rifle. Anything else and its a weapon of mass murder. The 2nd amendment was written in 1791. What else are you doing from that time period? Riding in a horse in buggy? No. So the next time your driving through the McDonald’s drive though in you gas-guzzling Ford truck, remember that were not in 1791 anymore. You fat, lazy lewis county morons.

  12. Bill S says:

    This was an initiative drawn up and sold to the naïve Puget Sound population by a few Seattle commies who’s ultimate goal is to ban the private ownership of guns.

    Unfortunately us citizens of rural Washington counties, who live and think differently than the city folk, have to live with the legislation which they pass.

    I don’t personally think that reasonable gun laws are bad, but I oppose them all because these people only see them as a step to a total ban.

    I’m too old to run or fight and it’s typically 30 minute response for the Sheriff to come to my aid in Eastern Lewis County if my door is kicked down in the middle of the night. I do need my gun.

  13. Disappointed says:

    whether you support 594 or not one thing is clear. These are everyone’s rights, not just gun owners. If you support illegal gun control like this, stop griping about laws preventing you from owning guns, because in fact, you don’t want them in the first place.
    What you end up doing is jacking up the rights of other law abiding people who actually want to express their 2nd amendment rights.

    So sit on the sidelines and shut your mouth.

  14. You Fat Lazy Lawyer says:

    Soc, grab your musket and head to 1776 Lewis County, you friggin idiot. Patriots? More like Idiots. Just like you and this fat lawyer. get yourself a Budweiser, a pack of GPC’s, and some high powered rifle and shoot something “just for the hell of it”. Or stay in Alabama and do it there. Yeeeeehaw. Go form a Militia while your at it so you can fight the U.S. Marine core if needed. LOL….

  15. soc says:

    Interesting. Most if not all of the name calling in this comment thread appears to be emanating from I-594 supporters. Am not a local, but I will be. Lewis County is well populated by patriots.

  16. None says:

    Hey, Where’s Brian Green in all of this?

    I expected him to have an opinion. Where’s he & Bo been lately?

  17. Matt Thimgan says:

    Amen to Lewis County officials who are doing their best with this unbelievably badly written law.
    Some common sense and respect for our Bill of Rights still prevails somewhere – at least in Lewis County, Washington!

  18. Redneck says:

    You fat lazy lawyer, your dumbfuckattude is noted… Perhaps you should enjoy another mcdonalds cheeseburger, cry about the conservative county you live in and whine some more??? Perhaps you are the fat lazy one? Congrats

    I will gladly vote for rob and john again, reguardless of BMI…..

  19. Mike says:

    I don’t like the law but I think the Prosecutor and the Sheriff have the right attitude. Unfortunately, other counties may not be so sensible, so we all must be very careful when we are outside Lewis County.

  20. Jason says:

    The ambiguity mentioned in this article is why I almost always vote no on voter initiatives, regardless of whether I agree with their goals or not. The voter initiative route can allow any legislation into law, no matter how poorly written it is. It doesn’t matter what the intent of the initiative author was, if the law is passed with ambiguous language, then it can be taken far beyond its original intent. It is ridiculous that a law was passed which could be interpreted by a county prosecutor as requiring a background check to hold a gun prior to purchase, or to let someone fire your rifle at a range.

  21. billy thorton says:

    Awesome!!! Following Obamas lead. “prosecutorial discretion”.

    “Marbury v. Madison, the US Supreme Court ruled that any law that violates the Constitution is automatically void”

  22. Kris Lindsay says:

    Good job Lewis County!

  23. Lisarae says:

    Too busy chasing pot smokers?

  24. You Fat Lazy Lawyer says:

    Sounds like this guy is just plain lazy. He doesn’t want to put any extra work in. Look at him! Very fat indeed. He resembles most of the “hunters” out there. Tricking the dumb animals wilth calls, scents, cameras, and long range scopes. Try hunting the old way and you fat lazy morons would be in the forest wandering around like the idiots that you are.

  25. I just purchased a junior rifle for our grandson today, a tradition as they get old enough to do hunter safety and hunt with the family. We can attest to the fact it is not easy to purchase a gun and while they apologized for our delay, we fully appreciated the care they took to insure we were who we said we were. They also went through the new law with us and that was appreciated. We are glad those in charge in our county are using common sense in this matter.

  26. Brad Olsen says:

    THANK YOU! Mr, Meyer! its nice to know we do have some politicians who still believe in our Constitution!!!

  27. Brad Olsen says:

    It gives me hope for the future that we DO have some politicians with common sense! Thank you Mr. Joanthan Meyer , for upholding our rights!

  28. Good to know I can just disregard any law that I don’t like! Thanks Lewis Co.

  29. Dave allen says:

    That man will always have my vote as long as he is running for office!

  30. Allen Benge says:

    Allow me to say congratulations to Sheriff-elect Snaza, and best wishes for his term and the future. Thanks go to him and Prosecuting Attorney Meyer for their positions on I-594. I campaigned for and collected signatures for I-591, and was very disappointed when the Protect Your Rights people criticized the I Will Not Comply rally. I have to agree with Jack and Maile. I will stand with you, and if you ever need, I will be here to support you.

  31. BleeBloo says:

    I have the right to bare arms.

  32. Redneck says:

    Good on Rob and John!! Sounds like the good people of lewis county made the right choice!!!

  33. I am still unclear if the law will be upheld by those exchanging money for firearms, as in “selling”. Either at the gun shows or in private.

  34. Jack and Maile says:

    Thank goodness we have a Prosecuting Attorney and Sheriff-elect with common sense!

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