Visualization of NPI's permit to purchase gun safety poll finding
Visualization of NPI's permit to purchase gun safety poll finding (NPI graphic)

Near­ly sev­en in ten like­ly 2024 vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton sup­port strength­en­ing the Ever­green State’s gun safe­ty laws to require a per­mit to pur­chase a firearm, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s lat­est statewide sur­vey has found.

68% of 874 vot­ers inter­viewed across the state from March 7th-8th sup­port the poli­cies pro­posed by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Liz Berry (D‑36th Dis­trict: Seat­tle) and dozens of her House col­leagues in House Bill 1143, which is now under con­sid­er­a­tion in the Sen­ate. 29% are opposed and 3% said they were not sure.

Well over a major­i­ty — 56% — of our respon­dents said they were strong­ly sup­port­ive, while an addi­tion­al 12% were strong­ly supportive.

10% were some­what opposed and 19% were strong­ly opposed.

Visualization of NPI's permit to purchase gun safety poll finding
Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s per­mit to pur­chase gun safe­ty poll find­ing (NPI graphic)

House Bill 1143, pre­filed on Jan­u­ary 5th, was request­ed by Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee. Its Sen­ate com­pan­ion, SB 5211, is prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Marko Liias.

The amend­ed bill, accord­ing to non­par­ti­san staff:

  • Pro­vides that a deal­er may not trans­fer any firearm to a pur­chas­er or trans­fer­ee until com­ple­tion of a back­ground check indi­cat­ing the per­son is eli­gi­ble to pos­sess firearms and ten busi­ness days have elapsed since the deal­er request­ed the back­ground check.
  • Pro­hibits a deal­er from trans­fer­ring a firearm to a pur­chas­er or trans­fer­ee unless the per­son pro­vides the deal­er with proof of com­ple­tion of a rec­og­nized firearm safe­ty train­ing program.
  • Updates firearm trans­fer and back­ground check process­es, includ­ing updates to con­form to imple­men­ta­tion of a state firearms back­ground check program.

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed to pass HB 1143 on March 7th by a vote of 52–44, with 2 excused. The bill is sched­uled to be con­sid­ered in exec­u­tive ses­sion next Tues­day fol­low­ing its hear­ing today in the Sen­ate Law & Jus­tice Committee.

Here’s the ques­tion we asked and the answers we received:

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose, or strong­ly oppose enact­ing a per­mit-to-pur­chase law for firearms, which would require peo­ple who want to buy a gun to get fin­ger­print­ed, take a class in gun safe­ty, and pass an enhanced back­ground check first?


  • Sup­port: 68% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 56%
    • Some­what sup­port: 12%
  • Oppose: 29%
    • Some­what oppose: 10%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 19%
  • Not sure: 3%

Our sur­vey of 874 like­ly 2024 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Tues­day, March 7th through Wednes­day, March 8th, 2023.

The poll uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and online answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

It was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

Giv­en the toplines, it was not sur­pris­ing to see sup­port for per­mit-to-pur­chase among all age groups and in all regions of Wash­ing­ton State.

78% of like­ly vot­ers in King Coun­ty sup­port per­mit-to-pur­chase, along with 71% of vot­ers in North Puget Sound, 69% of South Sound vot­ers, 62% of vot­ers on the Olympic Penin­su­la or South­west Wash­ing­ton, and 53% of vot­ers in East­ern and Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton, the most Repub­li­can region of the state.

60% of inde­pen­dent vot­ers also sup­port per­mit-to-pur­chase, along with 91% of Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers. Repub­li­cans are split: 52% oppose the idea, but a sig­nif­i­cant minor­i­ty, 40%, they say sup­port it. 40% of Repub­li­can vot­ers in sup­port is a huge, huge per­cent­age for a gun safe­ty bill! It just goes to show that not every Repub­li­can vot­er agrees with the abso­lutist posi­tions of the NRA and gun lobby.

NPI has been research­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans’ sup­port for gun safe­ty bills for more than half a decade, and we have con­sis­tent­ly found robust majori­ties in sup­port of every pro­posed law that we have test­ed so far, including:

HB 1143 ranks as one of the most pop­u­lar ideas we’ve test­ed, with the sup­port of near­ly sev­en out of ten vot­ers. Leg­is­la­tors should act swift­ly to get this leg­is­la­tion to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s desk so it can be signed into law.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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