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Steve Kirby: ‘Severe,’ ‘sensible’ bill on protective orders is a big deal for gun control

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on March 20, 2013 at 9:10 am |
March 20, 2013 11:53 am
Rep. Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma

Tacoma Rep. Steve Kirby, under pressure from gun-control supporters over his role in the failure of proposed universal background checks on gun buyers in Washington, is lauding another gun-control measure that he says will do more.

House Bill 1840, sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman and approved 61-37 in the House last week, would bar gun ownership for many people under restraining orders keeping them away from spouses or partners.

“To me it’s the biggest gun bill we’ve done since I’ve been in the Legislature,” Kirby said in an interview. “The bill proposes that we take away people’s guns if they have one of these orders. That’s a whole lot more severe than a background check.”

Kirby was a high-profile Democratic holdout on background checks, and says he has been receiving phone calls from Olympia residents after a town hall where local lawmakers like Sen. Karen Fraser urged their constituents to contact opponents.

For the record, Kirby says, he had committed to fellow House Democrats who were counting votes that he would vote “yes,” at least on a version that would have sent it to voters in a referendum. But supporters couldn’t find the right mix of amendments that would have given it enough votes in the House.

Prospects for the domestic-violence bill (and a related measure prompted by the murder of Birney Elementary teacher Jennifer Paulson) are uncertain. Certainly some gun rights supporters will argue that it goes too far because the people under the protective orders have not been convicted of a crime.

Efforts to require people bound by restraining orders to surrender their guns has been tried before in Washington but ran into NRA opposition, according to an investigative New York Times story this week that examines domestic-violence crimes in states like Washington that lack such laws.

This year, the issue is pending once again in the Washington Legislature, part of a number of gun-related proposals introduced after the Newtown shooting. The proposed legislation, further narrowed in an attempt to placate the N.R.A., seeks to mirror the language of the federal prohibition, which bars most people under full protective orders from buying or owning weapons. But in an e-mail to House Judiciary Committee members considering the measure, (NRA lobbyist Brian) Judy wrote that the federal law “does not provide adequate protection” and argued that individual firearm rights were more broadly protected in Washington’s State Constitution than in the Second Amendment.

The bill seemed on the verge of being scuttled as the N.R.A. pushed to amend it in a way that supporters argued would render it meaningless, but House Democrats managed to close ranks and pass it. It faces a much steeper climb in the Republican-controlled State Senate, where the N.R.A. wields greater influence.

Kirby issued a press release this morning praising the gun-control measures passed by the House, including Goodman’s bills and House Bill 1612, which sets up a database of gun offenders. “These bills are sensible and reasonable,” he wrote. “They’re readily enforceable, and they help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and other people in our state who need protection from violent criminals.”

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