This year in Olympia, gun-shy lawmakers (pun intended) ducked efforts to promote public safety and curtail gun violence. Universal background checks couldn’t even eke out a floor vote in the Democratic-controlled House.
Contrast Washington’s dithering to Colorado. Butch Cassidy and Calamity Jane’s old stomping ground cowboyed up three bills signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper. These new laws, which take effect in July, include mandatory background checks for firearm sales (antique firearms excepted), a ban on ammo clips that hold more than 15 rounds, and a fee to underwrite security checks. The horror of the Aurora theater shooting that left 12 dead and lingering memories of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre provided a backdrop.
And then in December, when hell visited Connecticut. 20 children and 6 educators murdered in Newtown.
Washington witnessed the 2008 Ian Zamora rampage that left six dead in Skagit County, and the 2012 Café Racer murders in Seattle. Less dramatic, yet equally evil, examples crash on spouses and family members throughout the Pacific Northwest. Authorities underline that most victims of gun violence know their killer.
Washington’s last sensible firearms bill standing, HB 1840, centers on restraining orders (read: the menace of domestic violence.) It’s so bracingly pragmatic it might even pass the whatever-the-NRA-tells-me state Senate.
According to analyses prepared by nonpartisan legislative staff, HB 1840 adds possession of a firearm while subject to certain protection, no-contact, and restraining orders to the list of what constitutes unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree. It requires people subject to those orders to surrender their firearms, dangerous weapons, and concealed pistol license while the order is in place. It adds sexual assault protection orders to the list of orders qualifying for weapons surrender, and requires law enforcement agencies to develop policies for seizure and return of surrendered weapons.
HB 1840 passed the House on March 12 by a bipartisan 61-37 vote. Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, a Seattle cop, is the bill’s co-sponsor. Rep. Dave Hayes, a promising freshman Republican from Camano Island whose day job is as a Snohomish County deputy sheriff, voted for it. Cops and sheriffs have a visceral appreciation for the bill’s mission.
On April 12, an amended version of HB 1840 was placed on a second reading by the Senate Rules Committee. The bill should be passed out of Rules and given a vote on the floor. All members of the Snohomish County delegation, we hope, will do the right thing, support victims of domestic violence, and vote yes.