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Firearms measures gain traction in House, stall in Senate
By Zoey Palmer
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Four firearms-related bills are expected to continue moving through the House of Representatives this session after receiving committee confirmation before the policy-bill cut-off date.
A host of Senate bills were introduced, but none advanced in that chamber.
Those that made it past the deadline include a controversial background-check requirement for private gun sales; a database for gun-related crime offenders; requiring those served with restraining orders to surrender their guns and a waiver for background checks on concealed pistol license holders and police officers.
Background checks for all gun sales
A proposal that would require private gun sales to be subject to a background check similar to existing requirements for licensed gun dealers was narrowly passed out of committee in an executive session Feb. 19 in a 7-6 vote.
HB 1588, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43rd District, Seattle), contains exemptions for some antique or rare firearms and buyers who have a state-issued concealed pistol license.
The proposal’s public hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 13 drew about 100 citizens, who packed two hearing rooms in the John L. O’Brien Building at the state capital.
The bill, which is supported by members of several law-enforcement organizations as well as gun-control advocates, was criticized by gun-rights supporters for restricting gun ownership and inconveniencing law-abiding gun buyers and sellers.
The bill’s next step is the House Rules Committee. If approved it would head to the House floor, where there is a Democratic majority.
It and other gun-control bills moving through the House are likely to have a difficult journey in the Senate, however, where two Democrats -- Sens. Rodney Tom (D-48th D-strict, Medina) and Tim Sheldon (D-35th District, Potlatch) -- have joined Senate Republicans to form a de facto Republican majority.
Those guilty of a gun crime may have to register with an offender database. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hope (R-44th District, Lake Stevens), would create a state registry of gun offenders for use by police.
Hope, who is also a Seattle police officer, said the registry would help police be more aware of those likely to commit gun violence.
“When somebody commits homicide with a gun, they’ve typically and usually had a prior gun offense,” explained Hope.
The database would not be public and would be managed by the Washington State Patrol. The requirement to register or not would be decided by the judge of each criminal case.
Some who testified at the hearing raised concerns about whether the database would really stay private and not be subject to public-information requests as is Washington’s sex-offender and kidnapper database.
The bill, HB 1612, was passed out of committee in a 12-1 vote on Feb. 21.
Restraining orders and guns
Those served with certain restraining, no-contact or protection orders would be required to surrender their guns to law enforcement while the order is in place under HB 1840, sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman (D-45th District, Kirkland).
The bill would make it illegal to possess a gun or CPL while under a restraining order and determined by the court to be a threat to a significant other, whether current or former, or a child. The court would order the person served to relinquish any guns to police within five days. The firearms would be returned when the order is lifted.
The measure was passed out of committee Feb. 21 in a 10-3 vote.
No background checks for some
A bill also sponsored by Goodman would drop the requirement for a state background check when an active police officer or state CPL holder purchases a handgun from a dealer.
In 2011, the Legislature passed a law intended to bring Washington’s CPL requirements up to federal standards. The law, however, didn’t address state gun transfer laws that required a state background check in addition to a federal one. Goodman says he seeks to address that with HB 1839. Under the bill, a valid CPL issued on or after July 22, 2011, could waive the requirement for both a federal check as well as a state background check. A concealed pistol license issued after that date would be subject to a national check but not the state background check.