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April 3, 2013 at 6:20 AM

Senate panel OKs two gun-control measures; Democrats bemoan what could have been

OLYMPIA — The state Senate Law & Justice Committee approved two gun-control measures Tuesday night, an anti-violence package that some Democrats rapped as too timid a response to recent mass shootings.

The meeting was the last before a Wednesday cutoff for non-budget-related proposals. The approved bills, which both already passed the House, will next go to the Senate floor.

The bills, now expected to be the only gun-control measures of this year’s session, would create a firearm felon database and require some people with restraining orders against them to surrender their guns while the order is in effect.

Before passage, the Republican-run panel scaled back the state House version of the restraining order proposal — House Bill 1840 — by including more judicial oversight.

The House version, which passed 61-37, would allow the order itself to be enough to force surrender of guns. The Senate committee version would require an additional finding by a judge that the subject of the order constituted a “credible threat.”

Supporters of the amendment said that kind of due process is essential, but opponents said the extra step will make the bill cover fewer people and thus be weaker. That disagreement will likely have to be sorted out in a negotiation with the House.

The broader issue of guns and restraining orders was highlighted in a recent New York Times story.

The database proposal, House Bill 1612, passed with few changes. It requires those convicted or found not guilty by insanity of a felony involving a weapon to provide their name, nickname, address, physical description and more. The information would go into a list maintained by the Washington State Patrol.

After the meeting, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles said she was “very disappointed” with the committee’s work on gun violence.

“I don’t believe that we’re really stepping up to our responsibility to as best as possible ensure the protection of our citizens,” said Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, noting she and others initially offered proposals ranging from universal background checks to increased penalties for juveniles in possession of firearms.

Most of those bills didn’t even make it through the Democrat-run House.

Some bills related to mental health are still alive, including a proposal to expand the state’s ability to civilly commit those deemed dangerous.

0 Comments | More in State Legislature | Topics: gun control, Jeanne Kohl-Welles

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