|Opponents: Bill to close 'gun show loophole' wouldn't cut crime
Friday, February 9, 2007
OLYMPIA -- Gun rights advocates packed two Senate hearing rooms Thursday as those in favor of gun control moved to expand background-check requirements to gun shows.
"This will be the first step to register all private gun transactions," said National Rifle Association lobbyist Brian Judy. "What this bill is about is expanding the database of Washington gun owners."
Senate Bill 5197's sponsor, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, rejected that position.
"This is not an expansion of any gun restrictions."
Tom said it simply requires gun show sellers to conduct the same checks required of most gun retailers, checks that prevented 2,400 gun sales to convicted felons or people with a history of mental illness in Washington state last year.
Opponents cited a 10-year-old federal study that showed that fewer than 1 percent of weapons used in violent crimes came from gun shows.
Testifying in support of SB 5197, Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske noted that undocumented gun sales, which are common at gun shows, are the reason few current crime statistics can be linked to gun show sales.
"I think it always helpful in government to reread 'Catch-22' every four or five years, and then the course of answers becomes clear," he said, referring to the Joseph Heller novel about the absurdity of war.
"If there is no record of the sale and no background check then there is little evidence of the number of sales that were denied or of the number of crime guns that come from gun shows. This legislation will fix that."
Even if the measure moves out of the Senate, it will face strong opposition in the House.
"We have a Legislature that represents the entire state," Chopp said, alluding to the fact that requiring background checks at gun shows is primarily an urban issue.
He said his reluctance to pick up the issue was not politically motivated, but rather a reflection of the wide-ranging views of his members.
"We have several members in our caucus for example, who are NRA members," Chopp said. "There's nowhere near enough votes to pass the bill."
Instead of gun control, Chopp said, House Democrats want to reduce violence in society by improving mental health services and school safety.
Chopp said the statistics have not been convincing enough to change opponents' minds.
Chopp said that Kerlikowske lacked statistics to make his case, and that he would be surprised if the Senate passes the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said the bill's fortune is unclear but not overly bright.
She said that even if her caucus supported the measure, the fact that it has been deemed a non-starter in the House would likely prevent her from spending hours debating it in the full Senate.
But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Adam Kline, D-Seattle, said the gun control bill may be an issue Chopp can't avoid.
"Some people feel (Chopp) has simply got to deal with this," Kline said.
"Now we've got hunters, cops -- real people -- not just liberals, who want to decrease the flow of guns into criminal hands."
To those who say the measure will not completely cut off the flow of guns into criminal hands, Kline said: "They are right!"
But he said the proposed law is a common-sense, middle-ground approach to dealing with guns getting into the wrong hands.
At the Senate hearing, Michael Brown of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws said gun control efforts are a reaction to "a lot of junk information" generated by rich people with an agenda.
P-I reporter Chris McGann can be reached at 360-943-3990 or email@example.com.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]