On Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 12:20 PM, Kline, Sen. Adam <Adam.Kline@leg.wa.gov> wrote:
Because I alone chose not to schedule these two bills for a hearing before the senate Judiciary Committee, I feel I owe the proponents an explanation. I am happy to provide it to you.
First, my committee hears and votes upon an inordinate number of bills each legislative session. It’s one of the busier policy-making committees, not counting the two fiscal committees, Ways and Means and Transportation. Because the Senate Rules require committee chairpersons to act as the gatekeepers for their committees, in order to “edit” the agenda, it’s my duty to edit out those bills that, for any number of reasons, the chairperson feels shouldn’t go forward. I have taken this role seriously, and as my busy committee-members know, I’ve often let bills be scheduled on which I have my own concerns.
Second, I made it a point to refuse these two bills in part because it appears that we liberals have been engaged in a one-way conversation on the issue of guns. When faced with reasonable measures on the subject, we’ve almost always voted Yes. Here are just a few examples from past years that have passed the Legislature with the complete and often unanimous support of the urban liberals, and have been signed into law by the Governor:
· SSB 6052 -- Assisting volunteers in hunter safety programs. Authorized three dollars of the late renewal penalty for concealed weapons permit applications to be used to support volunteer firearm safety instructors. Final Passage: Senate (45-0) House (82-12)
· SB 5083 -- Recognizing concealed weapon licenses issued by states that recognize Washington's concealed pistol license. Established reciprocal recognition of concealed weapon licenses between Washington and other states with substantially similar procedures and standards for issuing such licenses. Final Passage: Senate (48-0) House (93-2)
· 2SHB 1052 -- Concerning firearm licenses for persons from other countries. Established process for certain non-citizens (lawful permanent residents and non-immigrants living in Washington and in other states) to possess firearms and obtain a concealed pistol license in Washington. Final Passage: Passed both houses unanimously.
· SB 5739 -- Revising provisions relating to renewing a concealed pistol license by members of the armed forces. Exempted members of the military serving on active duty outside Washington from the ten dollar late fee for late renewal of a concealed pistol license. Final Passage: Passed both houses unanimously.
· HB 2226 --The procedures for a retired officer to apply to a local law enforcement agency for issuance of a firearms certificate, including the requirement for the officer to undergo a federal background check, are eliminated. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs ASPC must develop, and make available on its website, a model certificate to be used as a firearms qualification certificate for retired law enforcement officers. A retired law enforcement officer is deemed to satisfy the federal certification requirements if the officer possesses an approved firearms qualification certificate. Final Passage: Passed both houses unanimously.
· HB 1016: The crime of using a contrivance or device for suppressing the noise of a firearm is amended to exempt the use of a suppressor that is legally registered and possessed in accordance with federal law. Final Passage: Senate 47-0; House 88-4.
· HB 1041: Correctional personnel and community corrections officers who have completed government sponsored law enforcement firearms training are exempt from restrictions on carrying a concealed pistol and carrying a pistol in a vehicle. Final Passage: Senate 48-0; House 92-4.
Although many urban liberal legislators may have found these bills somewhat over-accommodating to the gun-lobby, we voted heavily for them in an effort to be reasonable and bipartisan. Some of us expected that this would evoke similar accommodations from the other side. Some of us simply put great stock in being reasonable and fair—that’s been a characteristic of liberal thinking: a sense of fairness, even to those with whom we disagree.
Yet, with only one exception, whenever we have asked the gun-lobby for an equivalent accommodation, we have been rebuffed. The sole exception was HB 1498 (2009), which the NRA simply agreed to stay “neutral” on a bill that prohibited gun-possession by violent mentally ill individuals who have been involuntarily hospitalized because they are “dangerous to self or others.” Perhaps this was “reasonable” on their part, or perhaps it was because they recognized that they could not explain to the public how they could oppose it. Either way, it was the only time in my 15 years here that they have ever cooperated in placing any limit on firearms.
The most glaring example of the pro-gun legislators’ lack of cooperation (in this case, with the encouragement of the NRA) was a bill to exercise the state’s option under the federal statute known as the Brady Act, to close the loophole in the background check requirement for guns sold at gun-shows. It has become routine for police officials to trace guns used in crimes to these gun-shows, where they are purchased on a no-questions-asked basis by people who we all agree have no business owning firearms, because they were either felons, or minors (under 21 for handguns), or adjudicated by the Superior Court to be mentally ill and “dangerous to self or others.” I can think of no more reasonable subject for legislation. Yet many who associate themselves with the gun-lobby claim to be “tough on crime”—and yet strongly opposed this bill that would have prevented criminals from getting guns. As a result, even as total crime numbers actually decrease, guns are used in an increasing percentage of the homicides and assaults that continue to victimize our constituents. And still, the NRA treats this bill as if it were a major invasion of Second Amendment rights—despite the Supreme Court’s upholding of identical laws in other states.
The lesson that I have learned from the response of the pro-gun legislators over the years is that there is no sense in us liberals being “reasonable,” when there will be no reciprocity, no equivalent sense of fairness on their part. The efficient operation of any legislature in making policy depends on a sense of fairness. As President Obama learned last summer from the behavior of the House Republicans regarding the national debt, there is no sense in being fair to people who will not or cannot be fair in return. Short of this understanding, a legislature still might get its work done if the two sides on any issue are willing to make the “deals” necessary to make policy. But there can’t even be a deal with members who take the most absolute positions, and sign public pledges never to “back down.” Because of this—and only because of this—those of us who have always sought reasonable limits on the use of firearms are finding ourselves a bit tired of all this.
So, speaking only for myself, I’m tired of being reasonable. When there is a partner willing to be fair, I’ll be fair. When there is a partner willing to make a deal, I’ll deal. When there is neither, I’ll do neither. That’s what you’re seeing.
Chair, Senate Judiciary Committee
P.S.: Regarding HB 1508, I’m not so sure it’s all that reasonable. The bill would exempt shooting-ranges from the control of local governments on the basis of noise-ordinance violations. Here’s an excerpt from one of several emails from neighbors of the shooting range in question:
“Please oppose HB 1508. The vague statement within the bill about a change in the “nature” of activities in gun clubs and allowing for expansion of such clubs make this a dangerous bill for neighborhoods like mine.
I purchased my home in Bremerton in 1991. For over a decade, I was not even aware that the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club existed nearby. Then, the club expanded from 3 to 18 ranges, began allowing large-caliber, automatic weapons, cannons and exploding targets, and, as a result, our neighborhood was terrorized for years with noise and stray bullets until last week when Judge Susan Serko of Pierce County found in favor of the Kitsap County Prosecutors. My own home was struck, as were the homes of at least five of my neighbors, during KRRC’s lawless years. (see Judge Serko’s verdict for complete information about this case). Prior to this past weekend, our biggest fear was that the next stray bullet would strike a person, not a home. The land on which KRRC is situated was polluted and wetlands were bulldozed over. (Again, this is well-documented in this court case.) HB 1508 would allow expansion of shooting ranges to completely destroy the lives of nearby residents. The “nature” of activity at ranges doesn’t change, so this wording within the bill is worthless.
My husband and many of my neighbors enjoy shooting at the Poulsbo Gun Club and other ranges in the area that operate safely. A native of Yakima, I also shot for sport at one time. We are not anti-gun. We are for protections for citizens from reckless organizations that would be allowed to expand without regard for those living nearby. This is a dangerous bill. Please vote to defeat HB 1508.”
Senator Adam Kline | 37th Legislative District Chair of Senate Judiciary Committee | Washington State Senate
(360) 786.7688 | 223 Cherberg Building | Olympia, WA 98504-0600