Washington State Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle), who became the subject of national news over the weekend for sponsoring legislation that mandated annual warrantless searches of gun owners’ homes by law enforcement to determine if they are properly storing so-called “assault weapons,” actually tried twice before to push measures with the very same provision.
Controversy has erupted over Kline’s Senate Bill 5737, aimed primarily at banning so-called “assault weapons,” after it was exposed over the weekend by Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat. It originally contained a provision that alarmed even some liberals: “The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection.”
As a result of Westneat’s snooping, the offending sentence disappeared from the legislation over the weekend and may now be seen on–line as the “corrected copy.” But the provision was never pulled from Kline’s two previous bills, SB 6396 in 2010 and SB 5475 in 2005. Examiner has a call in to Sen. Kline’s office, and also left a message for Westneat.
Westneat’s revealing piece wound up being linked by the Drudge Report and The Gun Wire, as well as this column. As KVI’s John Carlson noted Tuesday morning, the story has made national news because of this language, which Kline and Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle) both contended was an oversight when they talked with Westneat.
But that contention loses credibility fast when one reads the earlier bills with Kline’s name on them. The January 2010 hearing on SB 6396 brought a couple of hundred armed citizens to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing a couple of years ago, including a contingent of open carry activists that got an interesting reaction at the time from Washington Ceasefire’s Ralph Fascitelli, as this column noted at the time.
Veteran lobbyist Joe Waldron, former executive director of the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, told this column via e-mail, “We objected to that language when we opposed the previous versions, but the sponsor, Senator Kline again, stood by the bills as written. This was somewhat surprising, as Senator Kline had an admirable history as a civil rights worker in Mississippi in the bad old days and doing pro bono legal work for the ACLU.
“Above and beyond the fundamental violation of banning exactly the style of firearm the founding fathers intended the Second Amendment to protect,” Waldron observed, “the bill is also a direct attack on the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Replace the words ‘assault weapon’ with any other item in common use, and ask how reasonable it would be to allow a law enforcement agent to go fishing through your private property in search of some imagined violation. On several occasions, the Supreme Court has taken a dim view of ‘fishing expeditions’."
Carlson insisted on the air Tuesday that this clearly exposes a pattern that could not be an oversight. Both Kline and anti-gun Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) sponsored all three measures, including the current incarnation. Unscheduled inspections without a warrant by a sheriff’s deputy or some other peace officer might pass as acceptable in other countries, but not in the United States, according to alarmed gun owners, including those who responded to this column and Westneat’s column, which garnered almost 1,100 reader comments.
SB 5737 appears to have raised an embarrassing question about the ultimate motives of gun prohibitionists. One might accept a bit of sloppy overzealousness one time, but when the very same tenet appears in both previous versions of the proposal, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that it was put there deliberately, gun advocates maintain.
Kline’s insistence to the Times that “I made a mistake” and that “I frankly should have vetted this more closely” do not pass the smell test because of the earlier versions of his bill, gun owners contend. Murray’s admission that the provision “shouldn’t be in there” also seems flimsy considering the history of this “assault weapons ban” proposal. They have had plenty of time to get it out, but they included it.
Perhaps the angry reaction from gun owners who value their Fourth Amendment rights as much as their Second Amendment rights will remind Kline, Kohl-Welles and now Murray that this is Washington State, not a police state.