Gun rights issue holds up Senate passage of antiterrorism bill
The Associated Press
The News Tribune
Olympia, WA - 4/23/03 - While officials investigated Tuesday's bioterrorism
scare at a Tacoma post office, an antiterrorism bill remained stalled
in the state Senate - stuck there by Republican leaders who want special
language in the bill to protect gun owners.
"This bill is needed," said Dick Van Wagenen, policy adviser
to Gov. Gary Locke. "It's a shame the Senate leadership allowed
the gun lobby to kill it."
The National Rifle Association and supporters in the Republican-led
Senate are blocking the bill until they get an amendment that specifically
excludes firearms from the description of weapons of mass destruction.
NRA lobbyist Brian Judy said House Bill 1210 sets a bad precedent.
"'Weapons of mass destruction' has had a very specific meaning,"
Judy said. "It's generally understood to mean biological, chemical,
radiological or nuclear. We just feel it's inappropriate to lump firearms
into that category."
The bill missed Friday's cutoff for nonbudget bills, but the Senate
could revive it at any minute with a majority vote. A meeting involving
the key players was scheduled for today. But the regular legislative
session ends Sunday, so time is running out.
"There is nothing in this bill that would impact the Second Amendment
or any law-abiding citizen," fumed state Attorney General Christine
Gregoire, who requested the bill together with Locke. "How could
the NRA be against a terrorism bill? I do not understand it at all."
Gregoire said the Legislature needs to pass the antiterrorism bill,
in part because state law is ill-equipped to prosecute hoaxes calculated
to stir up terrorism fears and waste law enforcement time.