The piece, written by Danny Westneat, looks at the switched vote of Walla Walla Rep. Maureen Walsh, a Republican who initially supported the measure. Westneat’s take is that she changed her vote because of pressure from the National Rifle Association, and that it is this sort of effort by the gun lobby that will prevent doing “anything about guns.”
According to Westneat, background checks work. He writes: “Last year there were 519,209 such checks on gun buyers and license applicants in Washington state, according to the FBI.
“I asked the FBI how many had flagged someone ineligible to own a gun,” he continued. “They don’t break the figures out by state. But the typical reject rate nationally is 1 to 2 percent.
“That may not sound like much,” he figured. “But it means 5,000 to 10,000 people in our state were denied a gun or gun permit last year. Usually because they were an ex-con, a domestic abuser or a fugitive, and sometimes due to mental illness.
“This would be worth it if only 500, or 50, of this crowd was stopped from getting guns. Yet porous as it is, the system stopped 5,000,” he said.
Westneat’s reasoning is flawed, and many Times readers say so. Where did he get the idea that all of these apparent criminals didn’t get their hands on a firearm? Just because they were turned away at a gun shop or gun show doesn’t mean they didn’t score a piece.
Instead of blaming the NRA and it’s Evergreen State members, Westneat might save some frustration for Vice President Joe Biden. It was “Shotgun Joe” who reportedly stated during his infamous White House meeting with representatives from the firearms community that “…we simply don’t have the time or manpower to prosecute everybody who lies on a form, that checks a wrong box, that answers a question inaccurately.”
Simply checking a wrong box or answering a question inaccurately shouldn’t be a crime, but lying on a Form 4473 is a crime. It says so right there on the form.
Gun owners, and apparently some lawmakers, looked at that and scratched their heads. “Why should we pass a law,” they asked, “if nobody’s going to enforce it? Why go through more hoops to exercise a constitutionally-protected civil right if it really won’t stop criminals from getting guns?”
Besides, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved a federal bill this past week, so why duplicate the effort?
Gov. Jay Inslee could share some of the blame with his “Get a phone call from Gabby Giffords” strategy that included giving the former Arizona congresswoman Rep. Walsh’s private cell phone number. Inslee may not realize it, but that gaffe truly irritated more people than Walsh.
Privately, some gun owners apparently reminded their legislators that, “Giffords doesn’t vote in your district, but I do.”
Westneat might also throw some of the blame at Rep. Jamie Pedersen, who rolled to the lobbying of the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs. WASPC opposed a key provision offered by Bellevue gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb, that the state pistol registry be abolished. Instead, to get WASPC on board, they were offered an exemption from background checks for law enforcement, a move that infuriated firearms owners.
Gun owners are emphatic that civilian law enforcement should not be exempt from laws they are expected to enforce. It is that simple.
The firearms community was divided over the fact that Gottlieb even talked to the sponsors of HB 1588, but there is nothing wrong with putting something on the table just to see what might happen. When the registry provision disappeared, so did any interest gun owners may have had in the legislation.
There is more, and it has been lurking in the background throughout this debate. The newly-created Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility — a group created by anti-gun Seattle liberals, among who there does not appear to be a single certified firearms instructor — made no secret from the get-go that it might be looking at an initiative. That, in the eyes of many people, including lawmakers, sounds awfully like political blackmail.
WAGR’s website has been soliciting contributions, for what it doesn’t say, but it takes money to buy signatures on an initiative and more money to finance an election campaign.
And finally, the embarrassing implosion of another bill — the attempt by liberal Seattle Senators Adam Kline, Ed Murray and Jeanne Kohl-Welles to ban so-called “assault weapons” — blew up in their faces when it was revealed, by Westneat, that it contained a provision to allow annual warrantless searches of gun owners’ homes by sheriff’s deputies.
After Kline and Murray pleaded ignorance to that detail, this column checked and found the same language in two previous Kline-Kohl-Welles bills, so that defense didn’t pass the smell test. In the aftermath, gun owners simply concluded that gun control advocates could not be trusted.
Westneat’s column suggests that the gun lobby and gutless lawmakers are to blame for the failure of HB 1588. Gun owners who opposed the measure don’t feel any “blame” at all, but are willing to take the credit.
There are more than 405,000 concealed pistol license holders in this state. By some estimates, there are more than 1.2 million gun owners. NRA doesn’t release its membership data, but it’s Washington membership is believed to be somewhere north of 100,000. Thousands more belong to, or support, the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and/or the Washington Arms Collectors.
Nobody in their right mind is throwing down a gauntlet with a “bring it on” attitude. But Gottlieb’s experience did teach people something…again. Firearms owners have been willing to talk in the past. Virtually every time they did, they got lip service. Key items they offered were rejected. That’s not the way for legislators to build gun owner confidence that they are being represented.
Instead of devoting the next few months to a divisive initiative campaign that easily could fail in an off-year election, the smarter money might be spent on serious discussions between opposing groups. Perhaps there is common ground, but the gun control crowd must accept the fact they will have to give up something in order to get something.
The state pistol registry, regardless of WASPC’s opposition, must vanish. There must be guarantees of no record keeping, with criminal and civil penalties for violations. Attempts to erode state preemption must stop. Anti-gunners must accept the fact that concealed and open carry in public buildings, parks and other public places is constitutionally protected, while there is no right to not be offended, and city council members in places like Oak Harbor should get over it.
Bring that to the table seriously and gun owners just might prove their willingness to talk, rather than be at one another’s throats.