Senate panel blocks gun bills

OLYMPIA — A Senate committee led by firearm-friendly lawmakers blocked five gun control bills Friday, suggesting that this year’s momentum related to weapons laws may not be enough to win passage.

Members of the Law and Justice Committee voted to reject a variety of proposals, including one that would have created a task force to study weapon violence and another that would have created a specific crime for people who leave out loaded guns for children to reach. Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, expressed frustration after the hearing, saying the majority on the committee was stuck in “mindless, rigid refusal” that rejects even common sense ideas.

“They are in such rigid refusal, they just can’t see it,” Kline said.

Kline said he suspected that if the Connecticut school massacre hadn’t happened recently, his proposal related to child access to guns would have passed unanimously.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, is chairman of the committee and decided not to hold public hearings on many of the gun proposals. Democrats moved to take votes on the measures ahead of Friday’s deadline for policy bills, and Padden argued that the bills should be rejected because they didn’t have a proper public debate.

“We haven’t had a hearing to hear both sides on this,” Padden said on Democratic Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles’ proposal on child access to guns.

Kohl-Welles noted that her bill had 24 sponsors in the Senate, including two Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom.

The state House is working on a plan to expand background checks, with the help of a Republican lawmaker who works as a police officer, providing perhaps the best hope for gun control supporters who have worked on such a bill for years. Padden said he wasn’t sure whether that bill would get a hearing in his committee.

Sen. Pam Roach, a Republican lawmaker on the Law and Justice Committee, had spoken positively about the first bill considered — a plan that would allow law enforcement agencies to store weapons if people voluntarily surrender them for a period of time. But when it came time to vote, Roach paused before casting the deciding vote to reject the bill.

Roach then left the committee room for the remainder of the votes, leaving the bills to die on 3-3 ties. Roach did not immediately return a call seeking comment after the hearing.

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