Victims aren’t notified when abusers illegally try to buy guns in Washington

An investigation by local media in Washington state has found that victims don’t get a heads up when their abusers try to illegally buy guns.

More than 3,200 people tried to buy firearms in Washington this year even though court orders prohibit them from buying or owning guns. KING 5 in Seattle talked to Paula, a domestic violence survivor whose ex-boyfriend tried do just that. He failed a background check because of a protection order a judge signed two decades ago.

“That’s what scares me the most is that victims like me, who have tried so hard to make my life safe – my children’s lives safe, and I don’t even get a courtesy call,” Paula said when the TV station told her that her ex tried to buy a gun in March 2015.

Paula’s ex, and the rest of those prohibited from buying guns in Washington, break state and federal laws if they lie on Form 4473, the federal document that certifies people can legally buy guns. The TV station’s investigations found no instances of those people being punished for attempted purchases.

Still, lawmakers in the state are trying to find ways to notify people when their abusers try to get guns.

“Criminals or fugitives from justice trying to buy firearms through legal channels – that is a huge public safety risk,” said Rep. Drew Hansen. He’s drawing up a bill that would add gun purchases to a notification system that already serves domestic violence victims.

For Paula, a concealed carry permit holder and gun owner, she says a phone call could save lives.

“That could make all the difference in the world, just getting that phone call. How many lives would it save?” she asked. “(I hope) that there’s gonna be other victims out there that aren’t going to be afraid to say, ‘Hey, why aren’t you taking care of us?’