1. Former U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, testified at an overflow hearing on two competing initiative proposals on gun rights yesterday, I-594 and I-591.
I-594 would patch a loophole in state law that allows non-licensed gun dealers to sell or transfer guns without doing background checks. (Rep. Jamie Pederson, D-43, Capitol Hill, and the Democratic house failed to pass a background check bill last year when conservative Democrats stalled the effort.)
I-591, directly conflicting with I-594, would prohibit any state laws from exceeding federal standards (federal standards don't currently require non-licensed dealers to do criminal background checks.) The legislature can take action on both initiatives, but due to the intractable stalemate, both measures are likely to go to voters in November.
Giffords, who was shot by a would-be assassin at point-blank range in the head three years ago and has courageously rehabilitated, gave brief, stirring testimony (Giffords has difficulty speaking, but is clearly intellectually present); Kelly, a macho fellow who was firm about his and Giffords' belief in the 2nd Amendment and their adamance about never giving up their guns, was simultaneously a forceful and clear advocate (and loaded with compelling stats) for expanding background checks to prevent criminals, the mentally ill, and perpetrators of domestic violence from getting guns.
"Residents of the 14 states that have expanded background checks beyond the federal standards are safer," he said. His stats: Gun trafficking is 48 percent lower in those states; the rate at which women are killed with a gun by an intimate partner is 38 percent lower (while the rate at which they're killed by other means remains the same); and the gun-suicide rate is 49 percent lower.
Asked by Rep. Brad Klippert (R-8, Kennewick), respectfully, but also rhetorically—and to chortles from gun-rights advocates in the crowd—if he thought criminals would actually register, Kelly laid out a before-and-after hypothetical explaining that while criminals wouldn't register, they'd be blocked from the current Plan B route of getting a gun at a gun show: "We do know that since 1999, with the federal background check that requires background checks at licensed firearms dealers, ...1.9 million criminals and the dangerously mentally ill were prevented from buying a gun at the point of sale."
He concluded pointedly: "What we don't know is how many went on to go to a gun show, the Internet, or some other way of getting a gun, so I think it goes a long way to preventing most criminals from getting a firearm."
Watch the exchange below. And watch the whole hearing, including Giffords' dramatic testimony and gun advocates' rebuttals here starting at the 8-minute mark.
2. There was plenty of back-and-forth outside the hearing room as well where the line of gun control and gun rights advocates stretched down the hallway of the house building and into the courtyard outside.
One young man from Olympia who showed up with a hunting rifle told a 594 supporter that the measure would prevent him from giving his gun to his son.
His claim was incorrect. I-594 makes exemptions for gun transfers between family members, a point clearly articulated by the house staffer who outlined 594 at the start of the hearing (go to the 5:31 mark).
However, the gun control advocate told the young man that maybe transfers between family members should be regulated—what if his son had a dangerous mental illness?
The gun rights advocate countered that he wasn't stupid and wouldn't give a gun to a mentally ill person.
Maybe you wouldn't, the gun control advocate responded...
And so it went.
3. In other news out of Olympia yesterday: Gov. Jay Inslee, responding to the recent State Supreme Court finding that the legislature hadn't done enough to meet the McCleary mandate to fully fund K-12 education (we agree), proposed closing a series of tax loopholes to drum an extra $200 million this year and $600 million over the next three years.
Full list here, but the exemptions Inslee wants to rescind include: an exemption intended for wood products companies that oil companies are exploiting; an exemption on bottled water; an exemption for non-residents on the sales tax; and a used car trade-in exemption.
The Republicans, citing the $980 million extra that the state put toward K-12 education this biennium (which only equals a "modest," says the court, 6.7 percent increase), argue there's no need to add more money now.
(We'd add: Half of the extra money, $521 million, comes from one-time fixes and fund transfers.)
The GOP also takes umbrage at being told what to do by the court. State Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, W. Seattle) and Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-47, Covington) issued the following response:
A short session is no excuse for not doing our constitutional duty.
This discussion shouldn’t be about the Supreme Court; it’s about our children, and making sure they get the best education we can provide them.
4. In other Inslee news: Gov. Insee (and his wife Trudi) endorsed former Planned Parenthood political director Dana Laurent for Washington State Democratic Party Chair.
The Democrats are meeting in Vancouver this weekend, Saturday, February 1, to vote for their next party chair. Laurent is running against current state party director Jaxon Ravens, former director Jim Kainber, and eastern Washington Democratic party activist Jay Clough.