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Initiative would raise minimum age to buy firearms

An initiative to the legislature (I-978) looks to prohibit the sale of firearms and ammunition to individuals under the age of 21. Under current Washington law, the minimum age to purchase a handgun is 21, but semiautomatic rifles and shotguns can be purchased at age 18. The initiative, sponsored by Washington resident Jeremiah Buckles, would essentially align the age requirements for all firearms in the state and prohibit the sale of ammunition and the components to build live ammunition to those under 21.

The initiative does make an exception for firearm transfers that occur between immediate family members, as long as all those involved in the transfer are 18 or over. Violating these age requirements would be considered a gross misdemeanor or a class C felony for every repeat offense.

Back in February, Governor Inslee called on lawmakers to address this firearm purchasing age discrepancy, which he referred to as an “unbelievably idiotic loophole.” A few days later, Senator Frockt’s SB 6620, which would have prohibited individuals under 21 from purchasing a semiautomatic rifle, was heard in the Senate Ways and Means committee. The bill passed out of Ways and Means but never made it to the Senate floor.

The initiative will need to collect 259,622 signatures by January 4 in order to be submitted to the 2019 legislature. After which, the legislature will either adopt it, send it to the ballot as is, or propose an alternative to join the initiative on the ballot.