Gun-control advocates who were pushing for mandatory background checks for all gun sales in Washington state — whether at gun shows or in homes — conceded defeat Tuesday as it became clear there wasn’t enough support to get the proposal approved in the House.
But supporters of House Bill 1588 did not surrender easily. In the wake of the bill’s apparent defeat, supporters tried breathing life into the proposal by amending it to give voters the final say. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, conceded the extra effort probably did more harm than good.
That’s not surprising given emotions run high on both sides of the issue. .
When advocates keep pushing a dead issue, it unsettles staunch gun-rights advocates and furthers tensions.
Ultimately, however, the Second Amendment cannot be usurped by any state (or federal) law.
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court offered its interpretation of the Second Amendment. It said the amendment should generally be understood to mean individual citizens have a right to keep and bear arms.
The justices went on to note the right to bear arms is not unfettered. Just as there are some limits to free speech (falsely shouting “fire’’ in a crowded theater), there are also limits to gun ownership.
But when the Constitution was written more than 200 years ago it was understood militia referred to citizens — there was no National Guard. The Founding Fathers’ intent was to allow the people the means to rise up against the government if necessary.
HB 1588 was cast aside because the proposal would have resulted in lousy law. It would have created unnecessary hassles for those legally trying to buy and sell guns without making anybody safer.
Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, changed her stand on HB 1588 after originally signing on as a supporter. She said the reach of the proposal was greater than she had first believed. She publicly pulled her support and explained her reasoning in a letter to the U-B (Feb. 28, bit.ly/ZAslth).
“I received a great deal of phone calls and emails by folks with valid concerns about their Second Amendment rights and that the bill would harm only law-abiding citizens. Some made compelling arguments why the legislation would be difficult to implement. I also learned most gun buyers at gun shows must be members of the association, requiring a background check, before they can purchase any guns,” Walsh wrote.
The proposal was flawed. Walsh should be commended for taking another look at the legislation, weighing the information and using good judgment.
More folks need to take a step back and try to get past the emotions of the issue so reason and sound judgment will prevail.