-Sen. Adam Kline
People who favor a sensible approach to reducing gun violence received some bad news Tuesday night as the House failed to pass HB 1588, which would have required background checks for all gun sales in our state. As the sponsor of the Senate version of this bill, SB 5711, and a long-time advocate for commonsense gun laws I was dismayed when our version of this bill failed to receive even a hearing in the Republican-controlled Law and Justice Committee.
I hoped the passage of the House bill would convince Senate Republicans to move on this legislation. Rep. Jamie Pedersen, the House bill's prime sponsor, worked valiantly with supporters of the bill to get enough votes to pass the House version, but they fell just a few votes short.
HB 1588 had 38 co-sponsors, including two Republicans. One of the Republican co-sponsors is Rep. Mike Hope, a Seattle police officer from Lake Stevens who until very recently had an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association because of his 100 percent lifetime NRA voting record. The NRA, who I understand rebuffed Rep. Hope’s repeated attempts to communicate with them about the bill before he decided to sponsor it, quickly slammed him after his support of HB 1588. The NRA expressed their rage in various forms, such as mass-mailing postcards to Rep. Hope’s constituents. The postcard contained the usual fear-mongering, overblown and inaccurate rhetoric that the NRA usually engages in, demanding folks contact Rep. Hope because he sponsored a “sweeping gun control bill” that attacks the Second Amendment and is a devious attempt to move towards registering all firearms and their owners.
I fail to see how HB 1588 and SB 5711 are “sweeping gun control bills.” Since 1993, federal law has required background checks whenever a federally licensed dealer sells a firearm. But those checks don't cover private sales of firearms, such as those at gun shows. HB 1588 and SB 5711 simply attempted to close what’s known as the “gun-show loophole” by requiring that all sales, including those at informal gun-shows, go through a federal criminal background check. It wasn’t that long ago that the NRA itself was in favor of universal background checks. Expanding background check requirements doesn’t equate or lead to registering all firearms and their owners. Universal background checks do not limit the type of weapon someone can own, and they certainly don’t take guns out of the hands of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.
I also fail to see how it this bill “attacks” the Second Amendment. Congress required background checks in all sales by licensed dealers, whether at their premises or at gun-shows, and specifically allowed states to decide whether all sales at gun-shows were to go through background-checks. Attempts to get the United States Supreme Court to rule that these background checks are unconstitutional have failed. Through decades of rulings, the Court has made it abundantly clear that states and the federal government retain the authority to enact restrictions on gun ownership and use that are reasonably aimed at public safety.
No constitutional rule is absolute: even the First Amendment, the strong protection for free speech, has exceptions that allow suits for statements that are libelous. The Second, too, allows state and federal restrictions that are reasonably related to public safety. As to whether or not each of these proposals will in fact make our lives more secure—we can only craft them as carefully as possible, keep good records, and make appropriate changes in these laws as time goes on. But we have to start. The time has long passed and the American public demands action.
I’m impressed with the progress made by Reps. Pedersen. Hope and other supporters of the bill to get this legislation closer to passage than ever before.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, states with more gun laws have the fewest firearm deaths. The concept of a universal background check is a proven way to keep criminals from purchasing guns, which is why public polling on this issue is so overwhelming. A recent Elway Poll found that 79 percent of Washingtonians, and 71 percent of gun owners in our state, are in favor of universal background checks.
This is truly a bipartisan issue with broad support from Washingtonians of all walks of life. That is what is so frustrating about the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to even hear the bill. My version of this bill had 23 co-sponsors out of 49 senators, and three were Republicans. Included among the co-sponsors was Senator Rodney Tom, the Senate Majority Leader. This support wasn’t enough to persuade Sen. Mike Padden, the chair of the Law and Justice Committee, to give a hearing to the bill. Sen. Padden has an A+ rating from the NRA.
It seems like a day doesn’t go by in which we don’t hear about some incident involving gun violence. Below are just a few examples of tragedies involving guns in the last few days. This is a public health crisis and we must work to reduce incidents like these:
These may seem like unrelated incidents in which individuals acted violently. But they have one thing in common: in a moment of despair, anger or revenge, these people had easy access to a gun. Closing the “gunshow loophole” is a practical and effective way to prevent gun violence.