The 2013 death of Joel Reuter, the 28-year-old mentally ill man who was killed by police snipers after an 8-hour standoff on Capitol Hill, provides a real world example of how I-594 might be put to use.
CHS previously looked at some of the Capitol Hill donors and endorsements supporting the I-594 cause. We also featured an essay from former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels about his support for the initiative as a “first step” in improving gun control in the state.
Following Reuter’s 2013 death, detectives conducted an investigation into the gun Reuter brandished during the incident. According to police reports, the last registered owner of the gun was not Reuter, but a Seattle University law student living in Bellevue. When detectives visited the man’s house, he identified the gun as one he had previously owned, but told detectives he sold it on Armslist.com — a popular firearms classifieds website. The Bellevue man was not a licensed firearms dealer, according to the investigation report.
Two months before Reuter’s death, the man arranged to meet the Armslist buyer at a Dairy Queen parking lot to make the transaction. When detectives showed the man a picture of Reuter, he said Reuter was definitely not the buyer.
It turns out the buyer’s Bonney Lake lake address and “Justice Lawman” name were both fakes. And that’s where the trail goes cold. The Bellevue man told investigators he “usually” asks to see a buyer’s drivers license and concealed carry permit before selling a gun, but it appears he never asked this particular buyer. Two months later, Reuter was shot to death while holding the Glock 26. It is not known how he obtained it.
Under I-594, background checks by licensed firearm dealers would be required for such online transactions. I-594 would not have prevented Reuter from obtaining a gun, but the investigation does show some of the gaps I-594 supporters are trying to close. I-591 is also on the November 4th ballot and would prevent universal background checks in the state that are stricter than the national standard, effectively preventing anything like I-594. Meanwhile, Joel’s Law, a legislative effort supported by Reuter’s parent that would make it easier to have family members committed for mental health treatment, faces continued delay in Olympia.