guns | KUOW News and Information

guns

When a convicted felon, domestic abuser or fugitive tries to buy a gun in Oregon and is denied after a background check, a state trooper comes calling. Sometimes it leads to an arrest and prosecution.

But when this happens in Washington, it’s a different story.

Domestic abusers, felons and fugitives are prohibited from owning guns. But what happens if they try to buy a gun? In Oregon, the State Police investigate or alert local police. In Washington state no one follows up.

But that could soon change.

Thursday is the 21st anniversary of a deadly school shooting at Frontier Junior High in Moses Lake, Washington. To mark the anniversary, the sister of one of the victims plans to ask state lawmakers to make it crime to not safely store guns.

The 26-year-old man accused of opening fire at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport earlier this month pleaded not guilty to 22 counts at his arraignment in a federal court on Monday.

Esteban Santiago Ruiz allegedly traveled from Alaska and started firing in the Florida airport's crowded baggage claim area. Investigators say he continued until he ran out of ammunition, then dropped his weapon and was arrested by law enforcement officers.

It happens thousands of times a year in Washington state: someone who isn’t allowed to own a gun tries to buy one but is denied after a background check. But even though it’s a crime to lie on a background check form, police rarely if ever investigate these cases.

Every year in the U.S., more than 30,000 people die from things related to guns.

That puts guns ahead of HIV, Parkinson's disease, malnutrition, hypertension, intestinal infection, peptic ulcer, anemia, viral hepatitis, biliary tract disease, atherosclerosis and fires. Yet, the funding for research on gun violence lags far behind other leading causes of death, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The number of law enforcement officers shot and killed in the line of duty increased sharply in 2016 relative to 2015, according to a preliminary report from The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

The overall number of officer fatalities rose by 10 percent, remaining lower than the average for the previous ten years.

Blues singer Courtney Weaver performs in the KUOW studios.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Kenneth Fiaui had always been jealous of his girlfriend. He was even jealous of her 4-month-old cat.

On the night he shot her, Courtney Weaver was preparing to go out with some friends for the evening. Fiaui didn’t want her to go.

Fourteen-year-old Demarco Webster Jr. was helping his dad move to a new apartment a few months ago, when he was shot and killed.

His stepdad, Juawaun Hester, says they had intentionally waited to start the move until after midnight in order to avoid any trouble.

Hester says Demarco didn't even like going outside if he didn't have to.

"I don't understand man, and you know what's going on now is like the future children, the good children, the smart children, with scholarships and they're the ones who's dying to the gun violence," Hester says.

As the Seattle Seahawks played the L.A. Rams Thursday night, a Washington state lawmaker defended his proposal to allow concealed pistols at stadium events.

Typically a survivor of domestic violence would never know if their abuser tried to buy a gun and was denied after a background check. But now a state lawmaker and a domestic violence survivor want to change that.

What happens when someone who’s not supposed to have a gun lies about their background and tries to buy one? In Washington state, the answer is not much.

FBI records show that between January and August of this year, 3,259 would-be gun buyers in Washington failed a federal background check. But police and prosecutors rarely, if ever, pursue these people.

A new white paper by the Washington state attorney general’s office finds the state’s system of conducting background checks for gun purchases to be fragmented, complex and inconsistent.

Gun rights and gun control advocates are reacting to the first prosecution under Washington’s Initiative 594, the 2014 law that requires a background check for person-to-person gun sales.

The case involves a former Oak Harbor, Washington, resident named Mark Mercado who allegedly gave or sold a .22-caliber pistol to an acquaintance last November. Prosecutors said that gun was then used a day later in the murder of 17-year-old John Skyler Johnson, known as “Jay.”

In what’s believed to be the first prosecution under a 2014 voter-approved background check law, a former Oak Harbor, Washington, resident has been charged with illegally transferring a .22-caliber pistol that was later used in a homicide.

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