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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

February 19, 2013 at 12:27 PM

State House committee approves universal background check for gun sales

Update: This post has been updated with reaction from state Rep. Jamie Pedersen about the bill’s prospects.

OLYMPIA — A controversial gun control measure cleared its first major hurdle Tuesday, moving out of the state House Judiciary Committee on a 7-6 vote.

One Republican supported the bill — state Rep. Mike Hope, a Seattle police officer who lives in Lake Stevens.

Tacoma Democrat Steve Kirby voted no.

House Bill 1588, which would require a background check for almost all gun purchases, will now move to the House Rules Committee. Approval there would send it to the House floor.

Prime sponsor Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said the bill does not yet have the votes to pass. But he said there’s “a decent chance” it will soon.

The bill seeks to address a so-called loophole in current law: Licensed firearm dealers must conduct a background check for sales, but private sellers — at gun shows or anywhere else — do not.

The bill would require a background check for all purchases unless the buyer has a concealed weapon permit.

Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, supports the idea. So do a near-majority of 23 state senators, but leaders of the GOP-controlled Senate say it’s unlikely to get a floor vote in their chamber.

On Tuesday, Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee made clear why they are opposed.

“This bill provides yet one more barrier to the poorest in our society among us to be able to protect themselves,” said state Rep. Matt Shea, of Spokane Valley. “I will not have that on my conscience.”

“I see this as a significant infringement of our Second Amendment rights,” added state Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend.

But Pedersen, the sponsor and committee chairman, noted that background checks are already conducted before many gun purchases, “apparently without violating the amendment. ”

“Putting in place a system that makes sure that there isn’t a clear pathway around those rules makes sense and is likely to reduce some gun violence in our society,” Pedersen said.

Hope, the Republican who provided the decisive vote, acknowledged just before the vote that “politically speaking, this may not be the best thing.”

But it was the right thing to do, he said.

The bill, which drew dozens of supporters and opponents to a contentious hearing last week, is one of several the Legislature is considering in the aftermath of the school shooting in Connecticut in December.

Comments | More in State Legislature | Topics: gun control, Jamie Pedersen, Jay Rodne


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