Gun offender registry off to slow start

Gun offender registry off to slow start »Play Video
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Washington was the first to create a gun offender registry. But no one seems to have heard of it. It functions sort of like the sex offender registry, but keeps track of firearm offenders. KEPR found out why it's off to a slow start.

If your neighbor is a sex offender, they'll be added to this online database. And if your neighbor committed a crime with a gun, they could also go onto a registry. The difference is, you can see the sex offenders, but you can't see the firearms offenders.

"The benefit is to law enforcement and law enforcement alone. It's not something that's released to the public," said Deputy Prosecutor, Terry Bloor.

Which makes you wonder why it's even valuable.

"I see this as being an additional tool that will help us combat people who are repeat offenders and a lot of times, it's the people who are repeat offenders who keep committing crimes. So the more able we are to hold them accountable, the more able we are to combat the repeat gun violence," said Richland Police Captain Mike Cobb.

The registry started a year ago. And in that time, only 26 people were added to it. That's across the whole state of Washington. Richland Police Captain Mike Cobb thinks it's a good idea, in theory. But practicality is another issue. Captain Cobb thinks it's not as user friendly as it could be.

"If we are able to access the database from the field when we find an offender in possession of a firearm, we are gonna be able to hold them accountable in a much more immediate fashion," he said.

So if it isn't in regular use, and the public can't access it, why have it at all? We were unsuccessful in reaching a state representative from the Seattle area who pushed for the law. Benton County Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor says since the law went into effect, he's recommended adding every firearm felon to the registry, if they qualify.

"If the judge doesn't agree with our recommendation then so be it. But we will ask, unless it's a very unusual circumstance," he said.

Of the 26 people who are on the registry, none were added from Benton or Franklin Counties, but the prosecutor says a number are on the list to be added once they finish their time behind bars.