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Originally published March 11, 2013 at 9:32 PM | Page modified March 12, 2013 at 12:08 PM

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Gun-sales bill still 3 votes short in state House

Democratic supporters of a state House bill that would require background checks whenever a gun changes hands had hoped to bring the matter to a vote Monday, but the vote was delayed.

Seattle Times Olympia bureau

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OLYMPIA — Gun-control advocates Monday enlisted Gov. Jay Inslee and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona in a last-minute push to find the votes for a contentious bill to require background checks for all firearm purchases.

Inslee met with undecided state lawmakers face to face, while Giffords telephoned them during an intense day of politicking that also included repeated meetings in state House Speaker Frank Chopp’s office.

By evening, the mostly Democratic supporters who started the day optimistic had delayed an expected afternoon vote while trying to get three needed votes in the House.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jamie Pederson, D-Seattle, said Monday night he and others were still working on potential changes to attract more support.

Even if the proposal passes the House, it faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Senate. Supporters there say the bill probably has enough votes, but only if it somehow comes to the floor through opposition from Republicans who have vowed to block it.

House Bill 1588 would end a discrepancy in state law that mandates background checks for sales from licensed gun dealers but not for purchases from unlicensed, private sellers.

The concept has become a flashpoint in both Washington state and Washington, D.C. Supporters say it could help curb gun violence, while opponents decry it as ineffective and unconstitutional.

Because the bill would not affect the budget, the state House theoretically has until Wednesday evening to keep the proposal alive by approving it.

Pedersen has been working furiously to make that happen.

In a morning news conference off the state House floor, he and Inslee sounded an upbeat tone.

“This is a big day for the state to take a meaningful, common-sense step forward,” said Inslee, a first-term Democrat.

Inslee said he has been talking to undecided and swing-vote lawmakers, including conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans.

So far, only one Republican, Mike Hope of Lake Stevens, has signed on.

Three lawmakers said Inslee also has tried to get them to talk to Giffords, a moderate Democrat from Arizona who resigned after she was shot in the head at a supermarket near Tucson in January 2011.

Inslee’s office confirmed that the governor has asked his former colleague in Congress to call state lawmakers.

But the lawmakers said the outreach from national figures was not persuasive.

State Rep. Maureen Walsh, a Walla Walla Republican who sponsored the bill but has since decided to vote against it, told reporters it was “inappropriate” for Inslee to have given Giffords her private cellphone number.

An Inslee spokesman apologized, saying that was inadvertent.

And Steve Kirby, a Tacoma Democrat, quipped about a promised call from Vice President Joe Biden: “He doesn’t even live in my district!”

In the afternoon, supporters began to signal that the vote would be delayed.

“There’s probably some issue over there,” said Hope, gesturing to the Democratic caucus room.

Earlier Monday, lawmakers did manage to pass a quartet of bills aimed at gun violence, including measures to broaden anti-stalking protections and expand civil commitment of those deemed dangerous.

Brian M. Rosenthal: 360-236-8267 or brosenthal@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.

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