OLYMPIA — A contentious proposal to expand background checks on Washington state gun sales failed Tuesday in the state House, where supporters said they were just a handful of votes short.
Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, had proposed a referendum clause that would have allowed the public to vote on the measure. He initially believed that was enough to corral the 50 votes needed to pass the bill but conceded Tuesday night that others had dropped their support.
“It was too big of a stretch for this year,” Pedersen said.
Supporters of gun control had seen this year as the greatest chance for major changes in state law, with the public still reeling from the massacre of children at a Connecticut elementary school. The National Rifle Association, however, led a broad campaign in the state to block the bill, with opponents of the measure saying it wouldn’t stop gun violence and arguing that it was the first step to a registry of gun owners.
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 have extended background checks to cover private gun transactions.
Hope, a Seattle police officer, had 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.