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Prospects for gun control look scant in key Senate committee

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Feb. 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
February 22, 2013 3:21 pm

During a cutoff day like today when legislative bills face deadlines to advance, hundreds of the bills die — but most go quietly, by failing to win a vote. Today was unusual because of the very public way several gun-control measures expired.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley
Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley

The Senate Law and Justice Committee voted them down one by one, including proposals that would have toughened criminal laws against people who leave a gun within access of a child, and made it harder for mentally ill people forcibly detained for treatment to to have their gun rights restored.

The outcome was never in doubt but Senate Democrats insisted on holding votes as a protest, and chairman Mike Padden of Spokane Valley obliged — unusually, since many committee chairmen tend to simply refuse to let bills come up (Energy and Environment chairman Doug Ericksen of Ferndale showed one way of doing that Thursday when he simply adjourned his committee when a Democrat called for a vote on a proposal to regulate toxic flame retardants.)

Not that it mattered: Padden dispatched the bills with the help of fellow Republicans Mike Carrell of Lakewood and Kirk Pearson of Monroe. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, left the room for most of the votes.

It likely means that more sweeping proposals like universal background checks for gun sales won’t pass the Law and Justice Committee if the House sends them to the Senate. “They probably have a tough row to hoe,” Padden said. “We’ll see what comes over.”

Padden said some of the measures considered today infringed on constitutional rights to bear arms. And Carrell said he opposes gun storage proposals that “require us to turn your house into a fortress against your own family members.”

Another option for minority Democrats is to bring gun-control bills directly to the Senate floor, where they could join with two members of the Republican-dominated majority coalition who have signed on to Democratic Sen. Adam Kline’s background check proposal. Kline declined to comment on strategy.

Kline did say he purposely avoided bringing up background checks in the committee today, focusing on what he called “middle-ground stuff” rather than “in-your-face regulatory” items.

He said they were modest measures that ran into a “mindless, rigid refusal to deal with anything that has to do with guns.”

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