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Editorial: Lawmakers favor gun lobby over voters on background-check bill
The state House, which failed to advance a gun buyer background-check bill, should follow the will of the voters, not gun-industry lobbyists.
Seattle Times Editorial
AFTER the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, Colorado closed the “gun show loophole.” This week, eight months after the massacre at Century Aurora 16 cinemas, the Colorado Senate passed limits on ammunition magazines, banned gun ownership for alleged domestic abusers and expanded background checks to private gun sales.
That legislative action — in a state with similar politics — is a stark contrast to the failure of the state House of Representatives Tuesday to vote on a well-crafted proposal for universal background checks. Some less-controversial gun bills are still alive.
Our miserable litany of massacres — at Cafe Racer, at the Lakewood Forza coffee shop, in Alger, Skagit County, on and on — make gun control a ripe issue for voters. A recent Elway Poll found 79 percent support for universal background checks. A national poll finds an astonishing 91 percent support for mandatory background checks at gun shows.
Instead, lawmakers heeded gun-industry lobbyists, not the people.
The failed legislation, House Bill 1588, would not prevent all massacres. But the polls show an electorate willing to begin resetting the balance between the Second Amendment and easy access to guns.
Gun-control opponents fear background checks will create a de facto gun registry that could lead to confiscation, which could lead to tyranny. HB 1588, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, advanced a more rational argument. A gun buyer who checks out can buy a gun.
Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, a Seattle police officer, was one of only two Republicans to co-sponsor HB 1588. He was deluged with hate mail, orchestrated by the gun lobby. Gun-control advocates should remember his courage next election.
There may be other quiet supporters in his caucus. Voters will want to know.
A tally should be public, either in a floor vote or a letter circulated among lawmakers. If possible, revive HB 1588 through the budget process. Gov. Jay Inslee pledged to sign it.
But if the Legislature is unable to lead, the new Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility has a ripe issue to advance via initiative. Voters seem ready.
This editorial, originally published on March 13, 2013 at 3:35 p.m., was updated on March 15, 2013 at 3:08 p.m. The earlier version contained a photo caption that incorrectly stated that two Republicans supported the bill. One Republican supported the bill.