An early winner today. Rep. Jamie Pedersen's (D-43) universal background checks bill.
The results of a new Elway Poll found that despite Washington state residents' strong support for gun ownership rights—55 percent say protecting gun owner rights is more important than controlling gun ownership, 10 percentage points higher than the 45 percent nationally who feel that way—a hefty 79 percent still favor universal background checks.
Pedersen's background checks bill passed out of his own judiciary committee last month 7-6, but has yet to get voted out of the rules committee for a floor vote.
While the house is controlled by the Democrats (Elway's numbers, by the way, found that 68 percent of Democrats think "controlling gun ownership" is more important than "protecting the right to own guns ..." though we're not sure how that's an either or question), it's far from given that Pedersen's bill has the votes.
As NPR's Austin Jenkins reported yesterday, Pedersen's effort to reach a compromise with gun rights groups fell apart this month when they said they would only support the bill if Pedersen's legislation simultaneously got rid of a controversial (among gun rights advocates) Department of Licensing database that tracks gun sales.
However, on the other side of the divide, Don Pierce, legislative director for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, opposed that move—"with good reason," Pedersen says, noting that law enforcement makes 120,000 inquiries into the database per month.
Today's lopsided numbers for background checks can only help Pedersen make his case to get the extra votes; even 71 percent of gun owners supported the background checks Elway's poll found.
Pedersen says there are between ten and 14 legislators who are "on the fence." Pedersen says he'll know if the bill is still in play by the end of the week.
And a sore loser: Mayor Mike McGinn, who wrote a defiant (and cold: "Given the state of communications between us I believe it is important to outline in writing the objectives the City is seeking") memo to city attorney Pete Holmes saying he won't sign off on any plan to reform SPD's use-of-force policies and prevent racial bias in the department until Holmes meets a list of conditions; McGinn also asserts that he, not Holmes, is the final authority on the agreement.
"Do not represent to the Court or the monitor that the City has approved a monitoring plan until you have received written authorization from me that the plan satisfactorily meets our objectives," McGinn's memo says.
Holmes and McGinn have clashed over a number of issues related to the plan, including everything from whether Holmes improperly approved expenses for things like alcohol and pillowcases for [outside monitor Merick] Bobb (Holmes' office has said he refused to pay for any alcohol, because that would violate city policy) to basic questions like whether the DOJ's initial conclusions about problems in the department were correct."