Initiative on gun- owner checks should be vetted

Unintended consequences could have huge ramifications when dealing with buying and selling firearms.

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The debate on the complicated issue of expanding background checks for gun sales in Washington state has been lively. That’s as it should be.

Much has to be considered ­— from public safety to personal freedoms — when making substantial changes to background-check laws.

The state Legislature spent a lot of time and energy on the issue over the past four months, but made no decision.

Those opposed to expanding background checks to private gun sales were concerned it would make gun sales between family and friends expensive and unnecessarily difficult. Others were concerned the paperwork on the background checks would be stored and become a de facto register of gun owners.

Now proponents of expanding background checks are considering seeking approval directly from the voters.

Generally, writing law through the legislative process results in a better piece of legislation where opponents had opportunity to air their concerns.

Laws approved through legislative action are usually more polished than those gaining approval through the initiative process.

That is something backers of an initiative to expand background checks must keep in mind as their proposal is written and honed.

The Associated Press reported state Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle and sponsor of the legislation on background checks, said gaining approval of the people would make a statement with broad implications.

“It’s more powerful if the voters do it, as opposed to our doing it,” Pedersen said. “And it would make it easier for the Legislature to do even more.”

Perhaps. Then again, failure would also make a powerful statement, which could paralyze the Legislature on this issue.

We argued against Pedersen’s proposal, HB 1588, as it was being considered by lawmakers. It would have resulted in lousy law, creating unnecessary hassles for those buying and selling guns without making anybody safer.

Pedersen and other proponents of expanding background checks would be wise to make sure this proposal is extremely well vetted.

The issue of gun ownership is a very serious one. Taking a proposal too far (or not far enough) can have unintended consequences. When gun ownership is involved it could have constitutional ramifications and safety concerns.

Comments

PearlY 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I can see the opposition ad now:

A couple, around 65, sitting at their kitchen table, tears in the woman's eyes, the man looking devastated and hunched.

Camera pans to black-and-white photo on wall showing same man, much younger, in Vietnam-era military garb, looking proud and self-confident, holding an M-16 rifle, maybe with a Purple Heart ribboned to the corner of the photo, while the man says, "We'll have to sell the house to pay the lawyer, honey. I'm so, so sorry. I just didn't think." (Flashback to grainy video of man, looking stunned and demoralized, being handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a police car.)

Woman: "I know. It's OK. I should have thought of it myself. I even voted for that law. But you just CAN'T go to prison, and we can't let Debbie go to prison either. (Sobs.) It breaks my heart - her career is probably ruined. She's trained so hard and sacrificed so much." (Meanwhile camera pans to photos of grinning young woman, accepting a military commission in one, holding an M-4 rifle in another, photos hanging next to shelf with trophies for shooting competitions from high school and college shooting teams; follwed by flashback of Debbie, looking stunned but brave, being met by police at the airport and handcuffed as she returns on leave.)

Man: "Grand-dad always wanted that hunting rifle to be handed down to me and then to my oldest grandchild. He would have gotten such a kick out of it going to a girl, and an officer, no less. (Both smile through their tears.) (He sighs.) I thought it would be such a great Christmas present for her. It never occurred to me I'd have to get a background check on my own daughter. Who even dreamed up such a law? Why didn't we read it before we voted for it? Why didn't we THINK?"

Well, an ad pro could do a much better job, but you get the idea.

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namvet60 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Perfect - It seems that the legislation has to be passed to find out whats in it and then it is to late. Nothing is handled with aforethought anymore. Sad!

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