By Mike Baker Associated Press
OLYMPIA — The National Rifle Association is increasing pressure on Washington state lawmakers who have endorsed a plan to expand gun background checks, with the group calling members to action and specifically targeting a Republican lawmaker who supports the effort.
In a mailed note to its Washington members, the NRA called for “URGENT” action to contact GOP Rep. Mike Hope, who works as a Seattle police officer and was previously supported by the NRA. It said Hope’s vote could determine the fate of a “sweeping gun control measure.”
Hope supports the background check plan, saying Tuesday that it is a reasonable way to help keep guns away from violent criminals and the mentally ill. Hope said he’s invited the NRA to help shape the bill and has some changes that he’s going to propose to make the bill better.
“What frustrates me is that they’re not really looking at that stuff,” Hope said of the NRA. “They’re just looking at a unilateral `no’ to everything, and they’re not looking for a solution.”
Gun buyers already have to undergo a background check if they purchase from a federally licensed firearms dealer. The bill supported by Hope and many Democrats would expand that to sales between private parties, with Hope saying criminals use the private purchasing to get a gun without having to prove that they are legally allowed to own one.
Hope said he’s received about 300 emails related to the gun bill and believes there are a lot of misconceptions about what it does. In the memo that the NRA sent to its members, the group said the bill would have no impact on criminals and would be “the first steps toward universal registration of firearms and owners.” It called the background checks plan “a massive regulatory scheme with huge burdens and obstacles.”
Hope said the note is inaccurate. He said records of the background checks would not be maintained or part of a registration system. Under the bill, two people wanting to complete a transaction could go to their local gun shop or local law enforcement agency and pay for a background check of $20 or less.
NRA officials did not respond to requests for comment.
The background checks plan also has the support of Republican Sen. Steve Litzow and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Democrat who has aligned himself with Republicans this year. House lawmakers will begin considering the measure Wednesday in a committee hearing.