What was thought to be a pending deal on a key gun-control measure in the state legislature appears to be getting shot down by a dispute over whether to keep a database of gun sales.
The Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation – a national gun-rights group – had expressed willingness to support universal background checks in exchange for the state eliminating the database and destroying the records that are kept by gun sellers, local law enforcement and the Department of Licensing.
The group’s support was considered critical to getting HB1588 passed, and House Judiciary Chair Jamie Pederson supported the compromise after hearing from gun-rights advocates who argued it had little practical use and threatened privacy rights.
But now law enforcement groups have convinced him otherwise.
“There’s 140,000 queries per month from law enforcement officers in this state to this database,” Don Pierce, a lobbyist for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, told KIRO Radio’s Ross and Burbank Show Wednesday.
Pierce says while far from a perfect system because it only tracks purchases from licensed dealers, it’s often an important start.
“If we stop a carload of folks who have been involved in a burglary and they have a trunk full of guns, it’s the place where we start to try to track back these guns to get them back to their rightful owners. It also allows us, if we find a gun at a crime scene, to try and track it back to the most recent transfer,” he says.
But now it looks like a moot point. Pederson tells The Seattle Times he won’t support the background check bill without the backing of law enforcement. And the measure wasn’t expected to even get a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.
A frustrated Pierce argues the database does far more good than harm and there’s no reason for gun-rights groups to oppose it.
“One of the basic tenets of gun rights advocates has always been law enforcement should have tools to hold people that commit crimes with guns accountable,” he says. “So it’s a little bit strange to me that they would be the ones proposing that we do away with this database when it’s exactly the message that they’ve been giving us for decades about what we ought to do about gun crimes.”
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