OLYMPIA — Amid arguments over the Bible and gun-violence statistics, a state House panel Wednesday morning took up a proposal to eliminate all exceptions to required background checks for firearm sales.
The proposal, House Bill 1588, is a central and controversial part of Democrats’ push to enact new restrictions in the wake of the gruesome school shooting in Connecticut. It would make it a crime for private citizens to sell a firearm at a gun show or anywhere else without conducting a background check; licensed dealers are already required to do so.
“I don’t think this is a bill that will solve all the problems of gun violence in our country,” said Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a Seattle Democrat who sponsored the bill and chairs the House Judiciary Committee. “But this is a small step that we can and I believe we should take that will move us toward a society that will be safer.”
Pedersen announced at the hearing that he and other supporters were slightly scaling back their proposal. Under the amended version, agencies conducting the checks would have to destroy records of the search, and a concealed pistol license could stand in place of a new check.
About a dozen officials and residents testified in favor of the proposal, including Seattle Police Department Deputy Chief Nick Metz and Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle shooting survivor Cheryl Stumbo.
“Please do what you can today,” Stumbo pleaded.
About a dozen gun owners and Second Amendment activists testified against the proposal, arguing the bill goes too far and would be ineffective.
Brian Judy, a representative for the National Rifle Association called it a “huge regulatory scheme.”
“Ninety-nine percent of gun owners are law-abiding citizens, and those are the ones who will be affected by this,” Judy said. “This is a misdirected program. It’s not going to work.”
Dinah Griffey, a gun owner who said she survived a domestic violence attack, told lawmakers that “every time you limit a woman’s right to defend herself, you empower her attacker.”
Among the most contentious moments in the two-hour hearing, GOP state Rep. Matt Shea argued with Seattle pastor Sanford Brown about what the Bible says about gun control, and Vancouver resident Wayde Hager called out state Rep. Mike Hope, a Seattle police officer who is backing the proposal, over statistics about where inmates get guns.
Also considered at the hearing, were House Bill 1612, which would create a registry of gun-crime offenders; House Bill 1147, which would increase the penalty for a second conviction for unlawful possession of a firearms; and House Bill 1676, which would make it a crime for an adult to leave a gun in a place a child can access it.