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Could Kent murder case be wake-up call on gun control measure?

CCRKBA's Alan Gottlieb has consistently supported tough-on-criminals measures while defending gun owners. He is shown here testifying two years ago in favor of a measure that would have cracked down on armed juvenile thugs.
Dave Workman

The Seattle Times this morning is reporting new information on a double slaying in Kent this week that raises new questions about a gun control initiative, and why efforts to restrict firearms rights across the country are turning more people against the gun prohibition lobby.

The new information comes, ironically, on the heels of yesterday’s e-mail appeal from anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s “Everytown for Gun Safety,” the $50 million so-called “grasstoots” group pushing the ex-New York mayor’s restrictive gun control agenda nationwide. This particular e-mail, signed by Meera Bhardwaj, Everytown’s Washington State organizing director, pushes Initiative 594 with an incredibly vulnerable argument.

“Since 1998,” the message gasps, “the federal background check system has blocked 40,976 dangerous people from buying guns in Washington State -- including more than 6,000 domestic abusers. And that's precisely why we want to expand background checks to cover all gun sales here, including sales between strangers who meet online or at gun shows.”

Gun rights activists wonder why Bloomberg and Everytown can’t point to 40,976 trials and convictions for violating existing gun laws. And that brings us back around to the Kent double homicide, for which a man identified by the Times as 29-year-old Leland D. Russell is being held in the King County jail on $2 million bail, set yesterday by King County District Court Judge Arthur Chapman at a bail hearing.

The story reveals something else that may bear directly on the debate over I-594. Russell, the newspaper says, has been in trouble before. He was “previously accused” aiming a handgun at another man after a collision in 2012. He reportedly fired a couple of shots into the air during that confrontation. Times readers are weighing in here.

The case was prosecuted by the King County Prosecutor’s Office, where Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has become a high-profile spokesman for I-594. Quoting the newspaper, “King County prosecutors charged Russell with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and hit-and-run. He pleaded guilty to hit-and-run and was given a 90-day suspended jail sentence and ordered to participate in 60 hours of community service.”

Across the country, law-abiding gun owners who are unceasingly bombarded with demands that they submit to ever increasing and invasive “background checks,” waiting periods, higher fees, licensing and registration schemes look at cases like this and justifiably get angry. The looming vote on Initiative 594 will give them the opportunity to express their anger and frustration in Washington state, and next year in Nevada, and on the horizon other states that may include Oregon and Arizona.

The Times and Seattle P-I.com both report that the apparent Kent murder suspect allegedly pulled a handgun from a car and shot two gas station employees apparently because his companion was being subjected to racial slurs by construction workers. The suspect is alleged to be “a self-admitted gang member” and to have contended that if he had not shot the two men, the family of his companion, a black man, would have killed him for not defending his friend, both news organs have reported.

The claim hinges on alleged “disrespect” from the construction crew. It leaves unanswered the question about why the two gas station employees were the ones who got shot.

If Russell is charged in this case, the citizens who are now being encouraged to pass I-594, which treats the exercise of a constitutionally-protected civil right as though it is a highly regulated government privilege, might wonder how these new restrictions would prevent another such case. After all, the system reportedly had this fellow once before on a gun charge.

More than 20 years ago, gun rights organizations including the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, championed a measure called “Hard Time for Armed Crime.” Gun owners led the charge to punish lawbreakers, while leaving law-abiding gun owners alone.

Almost two years ago, CCRKBA was first to endorse a Satterberg plan to crack down on armed juvenile thugs. That proposal also brought support from Washington CeaseFire, but when hearings were held in Olympia last year, it was CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb who showed up to testify in support of the Satterberg-inspired legislation. The gun control lobby was noticeably absent, and traditional anti-gunners were there to testify against it.

That plan would have also left law-abiding gun owners alone. It would not have penalized people with concealed pistol licenses, nor required them to pay for pricey background checks to loan guns to friends or in-laws, nor would it have expanded the state’s handgun database, or created an unfunded mandate for local police agencies.

Maybe that’s why anti-gunners turned lukewarm, and vanished while Gottlieb and CCRKBA stayed the course, keeping their commitment to publicly support Satterberg's plan when others didn't. The mission of gun prohibitionists is public disarmament, not public safety. A lot of Washingtonians see I-594 — the 18-page gun control measure now being pushed by wealthy Seattle-based elitists — as the latest strategy in that gun grabbing agenda.

Maybe that’s also why two of the state’s largest and most respected law enforcement organizations are opposing I-594, amid what amounts to a virtual news blackout on that important information.