Major state gun proposal may go to voters

By Mike Baker, Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Washington voters may get the final say on whether the state expands background checks on gun sales, as proponents said Tuesday a public vote was necessary to move the idea forward.

Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said the referendum proposal was necessary in order to secure enough votes to pass the measure out of his chamber. If the measure is approved in both chambers, Pedersen said he expects the National Rifle Association leads an effort to stop it.

“I feel a pretty good amount of confidence that it works and that we can defend it at the ballot box,” Pedersen said.

Gun buyers currently must undergo a background check when they purchase a weapon from a federally licensed firearms dealer. Pedersen’s proposal, crafted in conjunction with Republican Rep. Mike Hope, would extend background checks to cover private gun transactions.

Under the bill, people who already have proper law enforcement credentials or a valid concealed pistol license would already have the proof needed to complete a private gun purchase. Those who don’t have such documentation could go to a licensed gun dealer or local law enforcement agency, then pay a fee and get a background check.

Hope, a Seattle police officer, has expressed concern that criminals are bypassing the current system of background checks and acquiring guns through private transactions. He said the proposal won’t stop gun violence but would make it harder for criminals to get weapons.

The state House is expected to take up the plan Tuesday afternoon. It would then have to get through the state Senate, including a committee controlled by gun-friendly lawmakers.