The first public hearing on House Bill 1588, the “universal background check” measure in Olympia, is scheduled Wednesday morning before the House Judiciary, and according to the Associated Press, backers are optimistic that they may have a winner.
But opponents of this bill, including the Washington Gun Owners Action League and the National Rifle Association, think it is a de facto registration measure in disguise. This column first discussed the proposal, which also has the attention of Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
Gottlieb said HB 1588 — on the House Judiciary agenda beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday — goes far beyond what would be considered a “reasonable background check.”
Here’s what GOAL says about the measure: “HB 1588…creates a de facto gun registration system in Washington. There are ways to conduct background checks that DO NOT retain data on the transfer. If they want background checks, run a pure background check bill. If they want registration, call it that and let’s debate it.”
The NRA is just as adamant in its criticism: “House Bill 1588 is the first step toward universal registration and clearly over-reaches and infringes on our Right to Keep and Bear Arms. This bill would create a massive regulatory scheme and a huge burden for law-abiding citizens. It also would require that anytime you sell any firearm to a family member or friend, you will have to go through a gun dealer or law enforcement agency and pay a $20 gun tax, with no guarantee of timely processing.”
There is also something else hidden in the measure, according to the NRA, that is not going to sit well with people licensed to carry concealed pistols, who are currently exempt from waiting periods: “There is no provision in this bill that extends the CPL exemption to private sales.”
But according to the Associated Press story, which appears in the San Francisco Chronicle but is suspiciously absent from local newspapers, Washington Ceasefire President Ralph Fascitelli is “increasingly optimistic” that the bill will pass. It appears to have some bipartisan support, with Republicans Mike Hope of Lake Stevens — and a Seattle police officer — and Steve Litzow from Mercer Island.
GOAL is urging gun owners to be at the Wednesday hearing. “It’s important that we get as large a pro-gun turn-out as possible to demonstrate our opposition to HBs 1588 and 1676.”
House Bill 1676, sponsored by Democrat Rep. Ruth Kagi, is a mandatory safe storage bill, a sort of “one size fits all” approach, according to critics. A companion measure, Senate Bill 5479, will be before the Senate Law & Justice Committee on Friday at 8 a.m. GOAL is encouraging gun owners to be at that hearing as well.
Recent demonstrations by gun owners in Olympia reflect the urgency that gun rights activists feel across the nation. Last week, gun owners turned out in Colorado, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and elsewhere.
Across the country, gun prohibitionists have begun a new push to advance their traditional legislative agenda in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Supported by the Obama administration, measures aimed at gun and magazine bans, rollbacks on state gun rights laws including preemption and shall-issue statutes have re-emerged.
Washington State’s situation is reflective of the national situation. The next few weeks, and perhaps months, will see more sparring at the state and federal level over what gun groups consider attempts to erode their rights.
This week’s hearings in Olympia could be Round 1.