OLYMPIA — Gun-control advocates in the state House conceded defeat Tuesday night on their top priority: a high-profile bill to require background checks for all gun sales.
While cautioning that nothing is ever truly dead in Olympia, bill sponsor Jamie Pedersen said “it does not appear that we’re going to make it there.”
“I always thought this was a stretch goal for us,” said Pedersen, D-Seattle. “It turns out it was too much of a stretch.”
Pedersen and others — including House Speaker Frank Chopp and Gov. Jay Inslee — have spent the past few days pushing for House Bill 1588, which would end a discrepancy in state law that allows sales from unlicensed, private dealers without background checks.
Earlier Tuesday, supporters announced they were adding a referendum clause to the bill in a last-minute bid to secure three needed votes.
Pedersen told reporters that the clause, which would put the issue on the November ballot, would be enough to get the votes. But after a day of politicking, he said the clause had indeed picked up some votes — but also turned off a half dozen original supporters of the bill.
Those supporters were concerned about risking a referendum in an off-year, low-turnout election, Pedersen said.
A spokesman for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which had been pushing the bill, said the group may consider running an initiative campaign in favor of expanded background checks.
In the Legislature, the prospects for the bill also appeared grim in the Republican-run state Senate, where leadership has indicated they will not bring up the bill for a vote.
Supporters in the Senate had said they had the votes to pass the bill — if they could get a vote on it.
Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray said Tuesday’s developments in the House made that harder.
“It’s not over until it’s over, but this makes it more difficult,” he said.
Non-budget bills have until Wednesday to make it out of their house of origin.
On Tuesday night, several House Democrats emerged from the caucus room with tears in their eyes.
“As a parent of four young kids –” said state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle. “Just, incredibly disappointing.”