State lawmakers pressured on universal background checks
With a key cut-off deadline nearing Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee is pressuring lawmakers to pass universal background checks for private gun sales and through gun shows.
After losing support from a lawmaker who sponsored the bill, Inslee asked former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords to call Representative Maureen Walsh, from Walla Walla.
Giffords was shot in the head at a supermarket near Tucson. She has since become an advocate for stricter gun laws.
Maureen Walsh was one of two Republicans who signed onto the measure to require background checks for all gun sales.
“Be courageous. Be bold,” Giffords said in a message for Walsh.
Incidentally, Walsh was not pleased that the governor gave Giffords her personal cellphone number. Inslee’s staff has apologized.
Walsh says she’s not changing her mind on the legislation.
The legislature finds that there is broad consensus that certain people, such as felons, minors, and involuntarily committed persons, should not be eligible to possess firearms for public safety reasons.
Background checks are an effective and easy mechanism to ensure that firearms are not sold to those who are prohibited from possessing them.
However, because background check requirements apply only to transfers by licensed firearms dealers, many firearms are currently sold without a background check, allowing felons and other ineligible persons to gain access to them.
The legislature intends by this act to strengthen our background check system by broadening the requirement for a background check to apply to all firearms sales in the state.
The bill would eliminate an exception that allows purchases from private, unlicensed sellers to occur without a background check.
Walsh says after talking with constituents, she now she thinks universal checks will just make it harder for law-abiding gun owners to make purchases.
Lawmakers estimate they have 47 votes in favor of the universal background checks. They need 50 to pass the state House.
Meanwhile, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Gabby Giffords, recently purchased an assault weapon to make a point about the ease of background checks for gun owners.
Kelly said on Facebook, “It is a pretty easy thing to do.”
On his Facebook page, he says he bought an AR-15, one of the 157 military-style weapons that would be banned under a bill pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The panel is set to consider three gun bills Tuesday, including the proposed assault weapons ban authored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
Kelly also said he plans to buy a weapon at a gun show and to sell a weapon and will write about those experiences as well.
By LINDA THOMAS