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.


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