Lawmakers in 22nd get an earful on guns

Activists in liberal-leaning district express frustration on death of HB 1588, other issues

bshannon@theolympian.comMarch 17, 2013 

A legislative town hall meeting Saturday morning at the Capitol sent a clear message to 22nd District lawmakers about the death of a background-checks law for all gun buyers.

“As a team, you didn’t get it done,” scolded Maureen Farr, who said she was with the Stop Thurston Gun Violence campaign. “I expect you to get out on the floor and get this passed!”

The trio of Democratic lawmakers in the liberal district — Sen. Karen Fraser of Thurston County, Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia and Rep. Chris Reykdal of Tumwater — defended their failure to produce results on a universal background checks bill that locked up the House Democratic Caucus for most of Tuesday before bill sponsors simply gave up.

House Bill 1588 never got a vote and died at Wednesday’s bill cutoffs because it was a few votes shy of the 50 needed and only one Republican — Rep. Mike Hope of Snohomish County — came over to the gun control side.

Fraser, Senate Democratic Caucus chair, reminded the crowd that all three 22nd District lawmakers support the background checks bill. She suggested that activists “be sure to talk to folks from districts that don’t support it.”

Pete Farr, a retired elementary school teacher, said it “tears my heart out that my state can’t do anything sensible (and) reasonable” on guns. And Barbara Trendall, who said she worked for a nonprofit that does children’s services, noted the irony: “We do background checks on our own volunteers and they enter clients’ homes armed with vacuum cleaners.”

Hunt, who was in the middle of House Democratic Caucus meetings in which votes were counted, said that once advocates realized Tuesday afternoon they would fall short there were many Democratic members “in tears.”

Hunt went on to call the National Rifle Association “evil,’’ and Reykdal said voters should encourage their friends and relatives who belong to the NRA to cancel memberships.

“This will be our colossal failure this year not to get universal background checks,’’ Reykdal said. “We will try with all our hearts again next year to get it done.’’ He also suggested that a citizen initiative might be the way to break through on the issue.

Hunt, Fraser and Reykdal heard about a lot more than guns during the two-hour town hall where the conversation ranged from pension reform to problems faced by the poor and homeless.

Mary Moore of the League of Women Voters said her concern was “revenue, revenue, revenue.” She identified a tax exemption worth more than $60 million for oil refineries as one that lawmakers need to close.

Fraser said the budget this year is “exceptionally, exceptionally difficult’’ and that “revenues are dribbling up” but not as quickly as expenses grow. But, she said, Gov. Jay Inslee will put out a revenue proposal this week that includes closure of tax loopholes.

The tax exemptions suggestion drew some applause, and Reykdal said a recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down the two-thirds supermajority requirement for new taxes is a “game changer.” But he said not to assume people will suddenly vote to raise taxes.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com blog.thenewstribune.com/politicsblog/

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