One Question

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings (and the Webster, NY, ambush a week later), gun control legislation is obviously on people's minds as the state legislature gets ready to convene on January 14. In addition to the recent tragedies, Seattle was shaken last May by the Cafe Racer and First Hill shootings, when a gunman killed five people before killing himself.

However, while the gun show loophole is a solution that liberals have been advocating for years, it's not likely to come up. With his "One Washington" theme, Democratic Speaker Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43, Seattle) has repeatedly explained to me that his Democratic caucus is not united on gun control issues, with many suburban and rural Democrats resistant to sweeping gun control legislation.

Certainly, the legislature has passed some gun control bills in recent years: In 2009, the legislature prohibited people who had been involuntarily committed for more than 14 days from owning guns, and last year they passed legislation that required denial of concealed pistol licenses when the applicant is prohibited from owning a firearm under federal law.

"I personally support and have co-sponsored bills closing the gun-show loophole, but in the short term, we have the legislature that the people sent us—including a now Republican-led Senate."—Rep. Jamie PedersenToday's One Question is for state Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Seattle), the chair of the house Judiciary Committee. With the senate under GOP control, we're expecting the more liberal house to take the lead on gun control. What gun control legislation, we asked Rep. Pedersen, was he planning to take up this session?

Here's what he told us:

For this session, concretely, I think that we will pursue two bills requested by the prosecutors:
 
1)  Increasing penalties for juveniles in possession of firearms; and

2)  Permitting civil commitment of people who commit violent offenses and are not competent to stand trial.  (These are called “felony flips” – there is a group of folks who are not competent for criminal purposes to stand trial but do not currently meet the definition of incompetent that would allow them to be civilly committed to a mental institution for treatment.) We have several examples of people who had been released after committing crimes because they were incompetent and then went on to kill people with guns. 
 
In addition, we will probably at least hold public hearings on other legislation that might try to limit the damage that can be done with guns, such as a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips. 

I personally support and have co-sponsored bills requiring background checks for private sales of firearms (i.e. closing the gun-show loophole) and requiring coding of ammunition [so it can be traced if used in a crime].  But in the short term, we have the legislature that the people sent us (including a now Republican-led Senate) and so we need to recognize that we need to engage in a longer-term conversation with the public about some of these issues to build support.