The state Legislature can and should pass reasonable gun violence prevention reforms into law this year.
Senate Democrats have crafted a package of common-sense, common-ground proposals with the goal of reducing senseless violence - yet without raising emotions, dividing public opinion or inciting controversy.
These bills have the broad, bipartisan support necessary to pass the Senate: The only thing standing in their way is the Republican majority that refuses to bring them forward.
To quote President Obama: “They deserve a vote.”
First, our plan for universal background checks keeps firearms out of the hands of violent criminals we already know should not be buying guns – a proposal that has been supported by former president Ronald Reagan, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, and Sen. Rodney Tom, the current majority leader of the state Senate. One poll shows that it is currently supported by 87 percent of Washingtonians. In the state Senate, it takes 25 votes to pass a bill – our background check bill has 23 sponsors, including Republicans.
Second, our plan for in-home safe-storage of firearms reduces the number of accidental gun-related tragedies that occur when unsupervised children come in contact with firearms stored in their homes. This is a proven plan that gets results without placing burdens or mandates on gun owners: Other states with similar laws have seen gun fatalities among children drop by 23 percent. Our safe storage bill has 24 sponsors, also including Republicans.
Third, our plan for preventing individuals undergoing mental distress from hurting themselves or others provides new protections for those who are not competent to stand trial, those who are involuntarily committed, and those who wish to turn over a gun to law enforcement for temporary safekeeping.
If Republicans and Democrats are willing to work together in good faith, it is possible to take some common-sense steps together on firearm safety. The conversation does not need to divide us.
Unfortunately, even as Democrats work hard to stake out common ground, some continue to insinuate that we have a dark agenda, secretly wanting to play the role of Big Brother and undermine the Second Amendment.
This is unfounded, false, and – on a potentially inflammatory topic like this –irresponsible.
Recently, I introduced assault rifle legislation to restrict the sale of weaponry that has no legitimate purpose in civil society. Admittedly, because it involves the regulation of hardware, this bill is more controversial than the proposals listed above – which is why it was not included in Senate Democrats’ gun safety legislative package. I have been very public that progress on a bill like this will require a multi-year effort of talking with communities, listening to communities and building coalitions within those communities.
Mistakenly and unfortunately, a clause from similar legislation from 2010 was pasted into my bill before it was introduced. This clause would have authorized police searches of owners of existing assault weapons. It’s a misguided notion representing everything that opponents of gun safety legislation fear the most, and was never my intent for the bill – nor was it the intent of the bill’s sponsor in 2010 (click here and scroll to 15:25 to see Sen. Kline state on the record that he did not want that language in his bill). When this drafting error was brought to my attention, I notified the Office of the Code Reviser and asked for it to be excised – which it was. Sen. Tom was instrumental in allowing this correction.
Even after the bill was corrected, Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat highlighted the mistake as an example of Democratic overreach, as though it were my true intent. This has antagonized and inflamed those who fear for their Second Amendment rights.
The fact is, we do not need to look for additional reasons to trust each other less. What we need to do is try a little harder to work in good faith to find additional areas of agreement with those who have a different point of view than us.
Democrats stand ready to work with our counterparts across the aisle both to respect our constitutional liberties and protect our communities. We are willing to talk. Are they willing to act?
If Democrats’ broadly supported proposals do not pass the Senate, it will not be because of a legislative drafting error or Democrats’ allegedly dark designs. It will be because the Republican leadership in the Senate is too ideologically entrenched to do what is right. I hope Sen. Tom can be as helpful in getting these bills to a vote of the Senate as he was in correcting the bill drafting error.
These bills have broad, bipartisan support. They deserve a vote.