Published February 09, 2007
Gun-control bill draws crowd, but legislation likely won't moveThe Associated Press
The Associated Press
Supporters and opponents showed up by the hundreds Thursday to hear testimony on a measure designed to prevent the unregulated sale of handguns at gun shows in Washington.Backers said the bill would help prevent criminals from getting firearms; those against said it would only put further restrictions on gun ownership.The crowd filled at least two hearing rooms and formed lines that nearly reached out of the John A. Cherberg Building near the Capitol."It's great to see this kind of crowd," said Sen. Rodney Tom D-Medina, the bill's primary sponsor. "I wish we could get this kind of attention at our Education Committee."The bill has failed in past sessions and doesn't appear to have much of a shot of being passed this year. Leaders in both the House and Senate have said they don't see enough support for it.But that didn't prevent partisans from turning out en masse. Members of the crowd had buttons identifying themselves as for or against the bill, but other than some heated debate and clapping and jeering during testimony, things stayed civil at the hearing in front of the Senate Labor, Commerce, Research and Development Committee.Federally licensed firearms dealers - including those who operate at gun shows - must perform background checks on anyone who purchases a firearm and keep records of buyers' names and addresses. For handgun buyers, state law also requires a five-day waiting period.But people who make only occasional sales at gun shows - such as collectors - aren't considered dealers, and can sell handguns without a background check or waiting period. The measure would require all dealers at gun shows to be licensed and perform background checks. Opponents say criminals do not obtain their guns at gun shows and that the bill would further restrict gun ownership rights. Supporters say the exemption is a dangerous opportunity for criminals to evade the background checks. California and Oregon have passed similar measures. Oregon state Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who spearheaded the initiative movement to pass the measure in her state, told the hearing that many gun owners came around to supporting the idea once they understood it. "This is all about crime prevention to me," Burdick said. "It's a no-brainer; it's common sense."Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske also testified in favor of the bill. He said background checks required by licensed firearms dealers have prevented many criminals from obtaining guns. It's only fair to extend that requirement to unlicensed dealers at gun shows, he said."It just makes sense to level the playing field," Kerlikowske said.Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn - who is not a member of the committee but was allowed to ask questions - said the only big gun shows in the Seattle area are sponsored by the Washington Arms Collectors organization. To buy a gun at one of those shows, she said, you have to undergo a background check.