SEATTLE — The Washington state Legislature ended its latest session without passing a bill that would allow the State Patrol to destroy firearms confiscated during criminal investigations, instead of trading them with a firearms dealer, who would sell them to the public.
They not only sell handguns and hunting rifles, but also assault weapons.
House Bill 1483 sought to give the agency the option to destroy them instead, but it never received a vote on the House floor.
The agency has feared that one of its sold guns would be used in a new crime, and an Associated Press investigation that has happened more than once.
"It's disappointing the bill failed to pass," said Kyle Moore, spokesman for the agency. "It's a policy that falls in line with other law enforcement agencies across the state."
Jaime Smith, spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee, said the bill's failure "was definitely a disappointment."
In Washington, like most other states, the law allows police to decide whether to sell, trade or destroy guns that are confiscated during criminal investigations. But the law was stricter for the State Patrol. Any forfeited guns that are not needed as evidence or kept for agency use must be auctioned or traded with licensed dealers, who then sell them.
Having the option to destroy the crime guns would "reduce the risk of these firearms being used for criminal purposes in the future and tied back to the department," the agency said in its request for the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn, D-Bellevue. It's co-sponsored by nine other Democrats and two Republicans.
The bill had moved to the House floor after being moved out of committee last year, but it stalled there and never got a vote, Senn said.
"I'm still in a little bit of shock that we didn't pass the bill," she said. "It certainly wasn't for a lack of trying."
Some lawmakers argued that if the agency destroys the guns, people will just buy them from the gun manufacturer and that will add to their profit, Senn said.
"But we argued that it's more expensive to buy it new," she said, and by destroying the guns "we wouldn't have the liability issues involved." Some fear the State Patrol and the state would be held liable if a gun sold by the agency were used in a murder or mass shooting.
An AP investigation found more than a dozen of the almost 6,000 firearms sold by Washington state law enforcement agencies since 2010 ended up in new criminal investigations, including three sold by the State Patrol.
The AP compared a list of almost 6,000 firearms that were used in crimes and then sold by Washington law enforcement agencies since 2010 with databases of guns used in crimes. More than a dozen of those sold guns were evidence in new police investigations that ranged from murder investigations to felons in possession of a gun.
The AP probe discovered that happened in at least three cases.
The State Patrol traded a batch of crime guns with a firearms dealer in June 2010, including a Lorcin semi-automatic pistol. In April 2015, a gang member shot at a car carrying a couple and their year-old daughter. One of the bullets hit the child in the head and killed her. While searching a home frequented by the suspected shooter and other gang members, the Kent Police Department found a Lorcin pistol — the gun sold by the State Patrol.
In June 2010, the agency traded a different Lorcin pistol with a firearms dealer. In May 2015, the Kent Police Department was investigating a 911 call and encountered four people outside the house. One of the men was prohibited from having a gun, but they found he was carrying the pistol sold by the State Patrol. The gun had been reported stolen, and he was arrested.
The Washington State Patrol traded a batch of guns to a firearms vendor in June 2010 that included a Smith and Wesson .9mm handgun. In September 2014, the Yakima Police Department responded to a report of a suicidal man with a gun. They arrived to find 24-year-old Kyle Juhl with a gunshot wound to the head. He used a Smith and Wesson .9mm handgun, the one sold by the State Patrol.
Juhl nearly took two lives when he killed himself.
In the bathroom next door, Adriana Dehonor, a mother of two boys, ages 1 and 2, was leaning over when she heard something whiz over her head and felt plaster hit her arm. She looked up and saw one hole in the tile and another on the opposite side of the room. She climbed up on the edge of the bathtub, peeked through the hole and saw Juhl lying in a pool of blood.