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Crime, Law and Justice
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Police Officer Turned Lawmaker Wants Mandatory Firearm Offender Registry

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Washington Legislature
Washington state Representative Dave Hayes

You’ve heard of sex offender registries. The state of Washington also has a registry for people convicted of gun-related felonies. But it’s hardly used.

Now a police officer turned state lawmaker wants to change that.

Washington’s felony gun registry law went into effect in 2013. But two years later fewer than 100 names had been entered. Judges simply weren’t requiring registration. When we reported those stats last October, they caught the eye of Republican state Representative Dave Hayes.

“We have a tool out there and the judges need to use it,” he said.

Hayes has a special interest in this issue. He’s a patrol sergeant for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s office. Hayes said when officers run a name through their computer, they get a “caution alert” if the person is a registered firearms offender.

“It just raises our awareness in situations like that and lets us know that, ‘hey, this guy has used a gun on another person before,’” Hayes said.

This year Hayes is sponsoring an update to the law to make registration mandatory for felons convicted of serious violent offenses involving guns. Registration would also be required in cases where the felony firearms offense was committed in conjunction with a crime involving sexual motivation or where the victim was a child.

The bipartisan proposal is expected to pass out of the House Judiciary Committee and even has the support of the NRA.