OLYMPIA – Democrats abandoned a bill to require wider background checks for gun purchases late Tuesday, after disagreements over the proposals caused the House of Representatives to grind to a halt for a second afternoon Tuesday.
“It does not appear we are going to make it,” Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said Tuesday evening announcing that the proposal did not have the necessary 50 votes to pass before today’s 5 p.m. deadline. “It turns out it was just too big of a stretch.”
Pedersen, Gov. Jay Inslee and other supporters of the plan had struggled since Monday to round up the necessary 50 votes needed to pass House Bill 1588, requiring background checks for private gun sales. Meanwhile, the fate of dozens of other bills hung in the balance because they must also come to a vote before that 5 p.m. deadline.
HB 1588 was the most controversial gun-control bill to survive this far into the session, with supporters saying it represents a sensible expansion of a current law that already requires commercial gun sellers to check whether a buyer has a criminal record. But opponents said it would do little to deter violent crime because criminals wouldn’t obey the law; they’d buy their guns illegally or steal them.
On Monday, Inslee made a personal visit to the House in an effort to pull a few representatives off the fence in favor of the bill. But the bill continued to be pushed back on the schedule and the House spent hours not voting on anything.
On Tuesday, supporters predicted they would vote on HB 1588 and as many as nine amendments. One of those amendments, which would automatically put the measure on the November ballot, was rumored to be the fix needed to snag the two or three needed votes.
But Pedersen said that while the referendum clause allowed them to pick up three yes votes, it prompted six previous supporters to say they would vote no. Some said they were leery of the precedent that could result in putting other controversial bills on the ballot.
But Pedersen rejected the idea that it was a mistake to tie up the House for hours on two successive days in an unsuccessful attempt to round up votes for the bill.
“This is a critical issue, one of the big issues of our time,” he said.
Several other bills tied to gun violence did pass, he added.
That included the only bill the House debated and passed after noon on Tuesday, which would require the subject of a protective order who is considered a violent threat to surrender firearms and other dangerous weapons as long as the order is in force.
“This is not a gun bill, this is a domestic violence bill,” said Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland. “If the order is lifted, they get their weapons back. If convicted of a violent crime, they lose their firearms rights.”
Goodman argued the bill conforms to federal law, but Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, said the bill had technical problems that conflict with federal law: “We’ve got to get this right because these are constitutional rights.”
But Shea’s amendment to make a few technical changes failed, and the bill passed 61 to 37.
On Monday, the House passed bills that allowed victims of stalking or cyberstalking to receive protective orders from a court, made changes to the state’s involuntary treatment laws and tightened rules on commitments for people who are judged incompetent to stand trial.