COURTESY OF PIXABAY
The WSU Police Department is no longer providing firearms storage to students. The change is due to a new gun law in the state that took effect in July.
Initiative 1639 was adopted by Washington voters in November 2018. The new law prohibits the purchase of a semi-automatic assault rifle by a person under 21 years of age, according to the Washington State Office of the Attorney General website. It also bans the sale or transfer of semi-automatic assault rifles to an adult under 21.
In July, more changes from I-1639 took effect. Enhanced background checks must now be done for the purchase or transfer of semi-automatic assault rifles. These background checks include a mental health check along with the standard criminal history search by law enforcement officials, according to the Washington State Office of the Attorney General website.
Steven Hansen, WSU assistant chief of police, said the enhanced background checks made storing guns too cumbersome for the police department and students.
The new law requires that law enforcement officials like WSU police run background checks every time a person checks out their weapon, Hansen said. The mental health portion alone could take 7-10 days as it must be done by a mental health provider in the state.
“Once you check in a weapon, it starts the process of needing a background check again,” Hansen said.
The new law makes it difficult for people to plan to check out weapons if they want to use them multiple times in a short amount of days during hunting season, he said.
Before the gun law changes, campus police stored any weapon that the state deemed legal, Hansen said. The police department would hold 50-70 guns.
Hansen said the policy of storing firearms has been in place since he started here 36 years ago.
Firearms and dangerous weapons are prohibited in university housing and property, leaving no source on campus to store these weapons.
Hansen said he suggests students wishing to store weapons while they attend school try the Colton Gun Club or another private business.
The University of Idaho and its security team work with the Moscow Police Department to provide gun storage for students and its security team. Moscow Police Corporal Josh Thueson said that service is only available for University of Idaho students.
“That’s really unfortunate for law-abiding students with guns over at Washington State,” Thueson said.
Hansen said students with bows and arrows can still store them with WSU police.
Hansen said campus police at Central Washington University and Eastern Washington University are likely to take similar measures with their gun storage for students if they have not already done so.
“We’re disappointed that we can’t provide a valuable service anymore,” Hansen said. “Everyone I’ve talked to has also expressed disappointment, but they’ve understood why.”
Hansen said communications about the policy change have been sent out to university housing staff so they can inform students that the service is no longer available.
He said he wants to make sure that students know firearms are prohibited at university housing, and he urges students to store their weapons safely and legally.