State gun legislation proposal falls short

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The state Legislature is considering two bills: HB 1588 and SB 5625, “Requiring universal background checks for firearms transfers,” and HB 1703: “Promoting firearm safety through an education program funded through fees on firearms and ammunition and creating a sales tax exemption on gun locks.”

Both bills have good intentions but are flawed. When challenged on merit, one sees they provide a false sense of progress and security. Worse, they punish law-abiding citizens through more regulations, registrations and taxes.

Piecemeal solutions are inadequate if we want to address the deep-rooted problems of violence, a complex phenomenon for which there is no single cure. Solutions such as the “gun-show-loophole” closure, enhanced background checks, gun taxes, the assault weapons ban, etc, are only Band Aid solutions.

HB 1588 seems reasonable: simply have everyone wishing to sell a weapon go through local law enforcement for a background check, paying a small fee in the process. The problem is that criminals, by definition, do not worry about laws.

The “gun show loophole” is not the source of illegal firearms as claimed by control advocates. President Obama’s “40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check” comes from an old, very small survey, and is of dubious validity.

If we want to address the causes of shooting tragedies, we need to avoid Band-Aid solutions that punish responsible citizens. HB 1588 is a bill that we don’t need passing the state Legislature.

HB 1703 proposes to set up an education program on firearm safety.

This is a welcome idea, but uses a flawed approach: it creates a new tax to fund the Department of Health to study the problem, contact various organizations, report their recommendations to the Legislature and governor, and start the safety program in less than four months. This is quite a feat for the vaguely described program of HB 1703.

SB 5660, “Regarding firearms safety education programs,” on the other hand, recognizes firearm safety programs already exist and directs their use. HB 1703 would be a better bill if it followed the path of SB 5660, and didn’t include a sin tax. All this to implement programs that already exist.

That’s a blank check for any government agency. We don’t need HB 1703. SB 5660 is the better approach.

So if we’re going to make the world safer, let’s enact laws that are effective, and not punish the wrong people.

Jeff Stidham

Walla Walla

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