In June of 2013, Initiative 594 (referred to as I 594 by many) was filed in Washington State in regards to requiring criminal and public safety background checks for the sale or transfer of guns. In November of 2014 the Initiative to the Legislature was approved, meaning that every individual in the state, even those who purchased a gun privately, were required to undergo background checks. The only people exempt from the new legislature were immediate family members who acquired antique guns from members of their families. Essentially, those who purchased guns whether from a private seller or licensed dealer would be required to be found “eligible” to possess a pistol. Additionally, the application must be approved by the sheriff or chief of police according to the measure.
Now, almost two years after the approval of I 594, an Oak Harbor man has been charged with what is thought to be the first criminal case involving the unlawful transfer of a firearm after Mark A. Mercado was accused of selling a Phoenix Arms HP22 handgun that was allegedly used to murder a 17-year-old just two days after Mercado reportedly sold the gun to the suspect, 20-year-old David Nunez, without performing the required background check. Mercado has been charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, according to news reports.
The victim, John Skyler Johnson, was killed in his grandmother’s home. Sheriff’s investigators allege that Mercado did not seek the required background check under the initiative when he sold the gun to the defendant. David Nunez was reportedly involved in an ongoing dispute with Johnson when he conspired with three others who were said to be friends of his to murder the victim. He is currently serving 25 years in prison after pleading guilty in May of this year. News reports indicate that Nunez and his friend murdered the teen over a $400 impound fee.
Nunez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree as part of a plea bargain; the plea included a firearms enhancement.
Gun control is a major topic of debate in our country. While many push for gun control, others strongly hold that guns are not what kill – it’s people who actually take action and shoot people, many of them innocent victims. In 2015, there were 358 shootings which according to the New York times resulted in the deaths or injuries of at least four people. At the heart of the gun control debate is whether private sellers and licensed dealers who often sell at shows should be required to perform background checks. It seems that currently, statistics indicate that when it comes to criminals, efforts have not worked to keep guns out of their hands.
With the Presidential election just days away, it seems that candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump disagree on many of the issues, one of them gun control. Clinton says that a ‘vast’ loophole in gun control laws would be closed by expanding background checks, while Trump is of the opinion that it isn’t tighter firearms laws but tougher police tactics that are the remedy for the recent spikes of gun homicides in many major cities.
What is your opinion? Do gun laws need to be stricter across the country? Is it too easy for criminals or even potential murders to obtain access to a gun? Certainly those who are mentally unstable should never gain access to a gun, but what about firearms to protect our own families and property? We’re interested in hearing your opinions.