State legislators to consider universal background checks for guns

SPOKANE, Wash. - The gun control debate moves full steam ahead in Olympia this week with House Bill 1588, which would require universal background checks for the sale or transfer of any gun.

Right now, only licensed dealers in Washington State are required to run a background check when a gun changes hands. HB 1588 has bi-partisan support in the legislature, but that's not necessarily the case in Spokane.

At Sharp Shooting Indoor Range in east Spokane, you'll find T-shirts emblazoned with guns stating "pro-choice" and others that accuse the government of too much control. Owner Robin Ball, a National Rifle Association member and avid gun rights activist, does not support HB 1588.

Universal background checks

"It's one step away from total firearms registration, which for gun owners that's a very slippery slope for us because it is the step before confiscation," Ball said.

Ball and state Rep. Matt Shea, a Republican out of Spokane Valley, share the same opinion about the bill. They believe it will lead to the government taking away all guns.

Shea sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which will hear arguments for the bill Wednesday morning.

"Our state constitution under Article One, Section Twenty-Four is very clear that the right to bear arms shall not be impaired and clearly this impairs the right to bear arms," Shea said.

The draft headed to the Judiciary Committee will require a background check before any sale or transfer of a gun, even if it is between two individuals. Background checks would be requested through local law enforcement and a fee of up to $20 can be applied. The Department of Licensing would provide a gun transfer application, where the results of the background check would be listed. If a seller does not follow those steps then they face a gross misdemeanor charge.

"The problem that I have with [the bill] is they're not showing us where we've had an issue, they're trying to fix something, a problem that doesn't exist," Ball said.

Despite objections from Ball and Shea the bill does have bi-partisan support, including two Republican co-sponsors.

Spokane Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli, both Democrats, co-sponsored the bill and Riccelli says he'd never support a bill that would lead to the confiscation of guns.

"I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and I think this bill, which enjoys good support, even with the NRA and nationally, to help keep our community safe while protecting gun rights," Riccelli said.

The bill would have to make it past the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday to then head to the House. After that, the Senate would have to approve the bill and then on to the governor's signature.