Even though the Legislature forgot to put Washington's new bump-stock buyback program in the state budget, the State Patrol should not delay implementation.
The Washington State Patrol may not believe the Legislature when it says: “The check is in the mail.” But when it comes to a program as important — and inexpensive — as the state’s new bump-stock buyback plan, the State Patrol should get started with the understanding that the Legislature will pay the Patrol back next year.
Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a ban on bump stocks, which can make a semi-automatic weapon mimic a machine gun, and a smart plan to buy back the devices. But, in a last-minute rush, they apparently forgot to put money in the budget to pay for the buyback plan, which would give people who turn their bump stocks in to the state $150. Budget chairs Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, and Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, wrote a letter to the Patrol explaining the oversight and promising to take care of the expense next year.
State Patrol spokeswoman Capt. Monica Alexander says the agency is ready to start but will wait for the money. “Whenever the funds are appropriated, then we can move forward,” she said. Since current lawmakers cannot force future actions of the Legislature, Patrol officials say the letter from Rolfes and Ormsby is not really a guarantee they’ll get the money in next year’s budget.
Rep. Paul Graves, R-Fall City, who drafted the buyback provision of Senate Bill 5992, says the approach could save lives, and that makes it time-sensitive.
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Since the Patrol has done most of its planning for the program, waiting for the money doesn’t make sense, especially because the dollars involved are minimal. The buybacks are expected to cost no more than $50,000, plus more to pay a part-time administrator for the program. That is a tiny fraction of the state’s $43 billion general-fund budget and may explain why the program was overlooked during the final days of the last legislative session.
The bump-stock buyback program is a small but important step toward a safer Washington, and one that has strong bipartisan support. The State Patrol should begin the program and next year’s Legislature should make sure the check really is in the mail.