After difficulty gaining momentum during the legislative session, bi-partisan support is now building behind gun safety proposals, but there are major differences between the parties as to what they may look like.
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In the wake of yet another school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, Representative Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, called on Gov. Inslee on Friday May 18th, to call a special legislative session to address school gun violence. The same day he was joined by Senator John Braun, R-Centralia, who rallied for bi-partisan agreement to protect children stating:
“Violence in American schools frequently results in Republicans and Democrats arguing instead of working to solve the problem. Fortunately, in Washington state, there are areas where we can find agreement and make meaningful improvements to better protect our students and educators. Earlier this year I proposed and advocated for putting $500 million in state bonding authority before voters to expand mental health services and treatment in communities statewide. Others have proposed limiting access to certain types of guns by individuals under age 21, or creating anonymous tip lines where safety concerns could be reported to the proper officials.”
On the heels of Republican calls to action, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility (AGR), held a luncheon on Monday May 21st in support of I-1639, its initiative response to SB 6620, which failed to move out of committee in February. The gathering, which the Alliance reports drew over 1000 attendees, raised nearly $3 million from large donors, including Paul Allen and Nick Hanauer, and many other smaller donors. I-1639 has also been endorsed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson. In addition, a Spokesman Review poll released last month also showed 62 percent of Eastern Washington residents polled supported raising the age to purchase semi-automatic weapons to 21 as proposed by I-1639.
I-1639 would raise the age for buying semi-automatic weapons to 21, apply the same background checks required to purchase handguns to semi-automatic weapons, require secure gun storage with criminal penalties for unauthorized use, and require potential purchasers to attend a firearms safety program. By contrast, Republicans advocate gun safety measures to fund arming school resource officers, train and certify teachers to carry concealed weapons at school, and redesign schools to be less accessible to assailants.
Recent challenges to the initiative’s ballot summary have delayed AGR’s signature gathering campaign. However, even if the signatures are gathered by the July 6th deadline, Washingtonians will not vote on the measure until November, after schools resume in the Fall, prompting the calls on Governor Inslee to proclaim a special session. Though, the Governor’s office indicates that this is unlikely, lawmakers could demonstrate they are serious about taking action by calling their own special session. Article II, Section 12 of the Washington State Constitution gives lawmakers the power to take matters into their own hands by calling a special legislative session upon a two-thirds majority vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.