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Spin Control

Sat., Feb. 23, 2013, 6:09 p.m.

Sunday Spin: Tough sledding on gun bills

OLYMPIA – The massacre of first graders and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary may result in some major national gun-control legislation this year. Too soon to tell.

But it may also block some smaller gun-related legislation in Washington state. At least that’s what several Senate Democrats contended Friday afternoon after an unusual meeting of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

 To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

. . . Democrats had objected the night before when Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, adjourned what was expected to be the committee’s last meeting before a key deadline without bringing up several of their bills on gun safety or gun violence. Padden agreed Friday to one more pre-deadline meeting to allow votes on five of their bills – four of which hadn’t even had public hearings, so they normally wouldn’t even come to a vote.

These weren’t the most contentious of gun bills, like an assault weapon ban or universal background checks. They involved penalties for adults who leave a loaded gun where a kid gets it and something bad happens; letting police take custody of a firearm for a person who is in mental distress; and forming a task force with representatives of both sides of the gun rights debate to study possible causes and solutions to gun violence.

All failed on party-line votes. Even the task force to do the study, and there’s almost nothing the Legislature would rather do with a contentious issue than form a task force to conduct a study.

The Legislature is already doing a study on mental health, and maybe some gun-control ideas could be part of that, Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood said. That’s like saying all gun owners have mental health problems, and groups like the NRA assure us that 99 percent or more of gun owners don’t, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, countered.

Several bills contain good ideas but need work and deserve input from the public, Padden and other Republicans on the panel said. The committee might be able to work on them in the interim.

Of course, one reason the public hadn’t provided input was the bills didn’t have hearings. Padden took responsibility for that, saying scheduling or not scheduling bills was his decision.

Law and Justice had a heavy load with a long list of contentious topics, and all committees last week saw bills die that someone thought were great ideas. But Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, wondered if gun-rights supporters haven’t adopted such a rigid position to counter the Sandy Hook reactions that they’d block “middle ground stuff” that in other years might sail through the committee, and the Legislature.

The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill requiring universal background checks, which is the big Kahuna of gun legislation this year. It had a contentious hearing with Second Amendment supporters hyper-vigilant about any encroachment. It only cleared that committee by one vote, and still faces an uncertain future in the full House.

On Friday, Padden wasn’t committing to a hearing on that bill if it passes the House. “We’ll wait and see what comes over,” he said.

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