OLYMPIA – A pair of initiatives on gun control had their second and likely last hearing Wednesday, with supporters and opponents disagreeing sharply on when giving a gun to another person would require a background check.
Wednesday’s hearing by the Senate Law and Justice Committee didn’t have the same “star power” as Tuesday’s House hearing without former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and former astronaut Mark Kelly to speak in favor of Initiative 594. But it did feature more questions by legislators of the two initiatives’ sponsors, sparking a debate over what it means to “transfer” a firearm.
Opponents like Brian Judy of the National Rifle Association said that puts severe restrictions on parents lending firearms to their adult children to use when the parent isn’t around, or one person trying out another person’s weapon at a firing range. Rebecca Johnson, a supporter of I-594, said the proposal doesn’t change state hunting laws and that’s not the kind of transfer in the law.
I-594 would keep dangerous people from buying guns, said Cheryl Stumbo, the victim of a shooting rampage in Seattle and the chief sponsor of the initiative. But dangerous people are likely to buy guns on the black market, not from people who will submit them to background checks, Judy said.
I-594 infringes on the federal and state constitutional guarantees to bear arms, said Alan Gottlieb of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, asked if current background checks, which are required when buying a gun from a dealer, violate the Second Amendment. Gottlieb said they probably did not, and Pederson suggested expanding them to private sales probably wouldn’t either. Gottlieb said the fact that police could keep a record of the private transaction was an addition to current law that was troubling.
Gottlieb is the sponsor of I-591, which would only allow the state to expand background checks if a new federal standard was approved and bans unlawful confiscations. Has there been any unlawful confiscation of handguns that are registered? Pedersen asked. “To my knowledge, we haven’t per se,” Gottlieb said, but under the state’s emergency powers laws that could happen if the governor declared an emergency, as Louisiana did when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said he had no plans to ask the panel to vote whether to send either initiative to the full Senate for consideration. After conversations with House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, whose committee held Tuesday’s hearing, he suspects the other chamber won’t act either.
“The initiative we might be able to pass in the Senate can’t pass the House, and the initiative the House might pass wouldn’t pass the Senate,” Padden said.
That means under state law both initiatives would be up to voters to decide in November.
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