Politics & Government

Legislators enjoy friendly firing

Lawmakers from both political parties gathered under cloudy skies Tuesday to compete in an annual showing of marksmanship.

Organized by outspoken gun-rights supporter Republican Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn, the Legislative Shootout at Evergreen Sportsmen’s Club in Littlerock gave legislators a chance to show off their prowess with such firearms as pistols and 12-gauge shotguns.

“This is a competition, and everyone is taking this pretty doggone seriously,” Roach said.

Lawmakers representing each of the four caucuses competed against each other, as well as staff members and lobbyists, in activities such as trap and target shooting.

The mood at the shootout was relatively light, considering the sometimes contentious nature of gun issues in the Legislature. Efforts to pass legislation to require background checks on all gun sales have repeatedly failed in recent years. This session, the Legislature faced two citizen initiatives, one to require universal background checks and one to prevent them. It has declined to act on either, sending both to the ballot.

But lawmakers were not at Tuesday’s shootout to argue policy. They attended to raise awareness of gun safety and the role of sportsmanship in Washington while having some fun.

“You can have different positions (on gun rights) but the issue here is to let people have experience safely handling firearms,” said Democratic Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam, who joked he was hoping to just hit the target given how infrequently he practices.

The event also provided a platform for representatives from sportsmen and conservation groups to tout the economic benefits of hunting and fishing in Washington. Gary Loomis of Edge Fishing Rods said more companies are manufacturing hunting and fishing equipment in the state, and that work is creating jobs.

“Alaska is having its own problems with overfishing,” Loomis said. “The Columbia River last year produced one of the largest chinook runs in history. (it) could be the new salmon capital of the world.”

Roach said she expected more than 100 people to compete in the day’s activities, which lasted into the evening. Among the roughly dozen lawmakers who had taken part by midday, some said the outing was a welcome break from the office.

“After working on the budget, this is really nice,” Hargrove said.