A controversial bill aimed at expanding background checks in exchange for major concessions to gun owners in Washington State could be in trouble, not because of opposition from gun rights groups, or legislative liberals, but because of resistance from the law enforcement administrators' lobby to one of the key provisions.
Alan Gottlieb with the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, both pilloried and praised within the firearms community recently, told Examiner late Friday that the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) is opposed to a tenet of the proposed substitute House Bill 1588 that would abolish the state’s pistol registry, maintained by the state Department of Licensing. Everyone else appeared to be on board with the provision including sponsors Mike Hope (R-Lake Stevens) a Seattle police officer, and Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that heard the bill.
Calls to Hope and Pedersen about this new development were not returned. Hope spoke with Examiner Thursday, holding out hopes that there could be a meeting of the minds.
At stake are several things, not the least of which is a threatened high-dollar lobbying campaign led by Seattle anti-gunners, and if that doesn’t work, the not-so-subtle threat of a big bucks initiative discussed by this column. Anti-gunners with cash backing believe they could essentially buy an initiative, writing a gun law they would author.
The lobbying threat surfaced a few days ago when it appeared promising that Gottlieb’s requirements might be met, specifically the removal of the pistol registry. He told Examiner Friday afternoon that without that provision, he will walk away from this bill.
This column has learned that in an e-mail from Pedersen to Gottlieb and Hope, the chairman said the current proposal includes exemptions for non-profits that run gun shows and require background checks for membership; releasing licensed dealers facilitating sales from any obligation to collect sales or use tax on the sales, and a section excusing licensed dealers facilitating sales from complying with any state requirements about additional background checks, filling out the Department of Licensing pistol license transform.
But the Seattle Democrat said in the e-mail that the law enforcement lobby says that neither the National Instant Check System (NICS) or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “contain anything like the functionality that is contained in the DOL database.” Therefore, he explained, the database cannot be eliminated without law enforcement opposition to the bill, and that would kill it.
This must come as a disappointment, and something of a surprise, to both Pedersen and professional cop Hope, considering the source of resistance. Law enforcement was all for a so-called “universal background check” but at the moment Gottlieb put some conditions on the table — in what must be defined as a “true spirit of negotiation" for which he has taken some heat — the police administrators’ lobby ran for the donut shop.
Seattle anti-gunners, who are drooling at the prospect of running an initiative with Draconian provisions, could not have wanted this substitute bill to move forward because it would have been steered by the firearms community. They don’t want to lose a pistol registry, they want an initiative that expands the registry to rifles and shotguns. As KVI’s John Carlson — who recently had both Hope and this writer on the air in a three-way discussion — has noted repeatedly, there are two reasons for a gun registry: to “tax them or take them.”
That observation was supported via e-mail from a career law enforcement pro who told Examiner, “State lists of who bought what gun are a privacy issue, and privacy very often trumps potential investigative tools in case law. The lists are far more useful for potential confiscation programs than criminal investigations.”
In his weekly “GOAL Post,” veteran gun rights lobbyist Joe Waldron had this observation about the Seattle’s new gun prohibition lobbying group:
“Dubbed the ‘Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility,’ the group appears to be backed by current and former Seattle City Councilcritters, as well as by Seattle fat-cat Ward Hanauer. Where their money is coming from is another matter. Hanauer is the initial sugar-daddy, but like the 1997 anti-gun initiative I-676, it'll likely be Seattle-centered ‘limousine liberals in tasseled loafers’ as the Spokane Spokesman Review called them, or liberal anti-gun foundations using their tax-exempt dollars to attack YOUR rights. It wouldn't surprise me to find New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's fingerprints on it as well.
“They've hired a high-powered lobbyist, their own ‘hired gun,’ Zach Silk, who ran last year's successful legislative gay marriage lobbying campaign. Ostensibly created to lobby the legislature to pass ‘responsible’ gun legislation, they're also threatening an initiative later this year if they can't coerce Olympia into giving in to their demands.
“A similar ‘citizens group’ did the same thing in 1997 -- after their pet bill to mandate gun storage failed, they ran an initiative calling for licensing of everyone in Washington who ‘possessed’ a handgun (far broader than ‘owned’). Seattle media polling indicated 65% support for the initiative, but a funny thing happened at the only poll that counts: on election day the initiative was defeated 71--29%.”
Some sources quietly say that many police officers and sheriffs do not agree with the WASPC opposition to Gottlieb's requirement that the state handgun registry be dismantled. They may begin feuding amongst themselves over the measure.
But for a police administrators’ lobbying group to be the roadblock is something that the firearms community — which has supported their efforts to give retired and active duty police concealed carry rights all over the country — will not forget. The next time this lobbying group comes begging for help, certain members of the House, and people in the firearms community, might just slam the door in their face.