UPDATED — State gun background check plan stirs NRA ire

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OLYMPIA — The National Rifle Association is increasing pressure on state lawmakers who have endorsed a plan to expand gun background checks and is specifically targeting a Republican lawmaker who supports the effort.

In a note mailed to its Washington members, the NRA called for “urgent” action to contact GOP Rep. Mike Hope, D-Lake Stevens, a Seattle police officer who previously had the NRA's support.

The group said Hope's vote could determine the fate of a “sweeping gun-control measure.”

Hope supports the background-check plan, saying Tuesday it is a reasonable way to help keep guns away from violent criminals and the mentally ill.

Hope said he's invited the NRA to help shape the bill and will propose changes to make it better.

“What frustrates me is that they're not really looking at that stuff,” Hope said of the NRA.

'Not looking for solution'

“They're just looking at a unilateral 'no' to everything, and they're not looking for a solution.”
NRA officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Gun buyers already have to undergo a background check if they purchase from a federally licensed firearms dealer.

The bill supported by Hope and many Democrats would expand that to sales between private parties, with Hope saying criminals purchase guns privately to avoid having to prove they are legally allowed to own one.

State Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, is among those who support the proposed universal background-checks bill.

Fellow 24th District legislator state Rep. Kevin Van De Wege — also a Democrat from Sequim — said Tuesday he would not support the bill.

Van De Wege does expect the proposed legislation to at least pass out of the House Judiciary Committee after its first public hearing today.

Van De Wege thinks the legislators sponsoring the bill want to offer a bill to do something to address gun control that has a chance of passing out of the state House.

“I believe they are probably looking at it as a step,” Van De Wege said.

In a past interview, Van De Wege said he would be loath to support any proposed legislation that would limit the ability of state residents to legally own firearms but would favor investing more money in mental health treatment.

Van De Wege and Tharinger represent Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County in the state Legislature, alongside state Sen. James Hargrove, D-Hoquiam.

300 emails

Hope said he's received about 300 emails related to the gun bill and believes there are a lot of misconceptions about what it does.

In the memo the NRA sent to its members, the group said the bill would have no impact on criminals and would be “the first steps toward universal registration of firearms and owners.”

It called the background-checks plan “a massive regulatory scheme with huge burdens and obstacles.”

Hope said the note is inaccurate. He said records of the background checks would not be maintained or part of a registration system.

Under the bill, two people wanting to complete a transaction could go to their local gun shop or local law enforcement agency and pay for a background check of $20 or less.

The background-checks plan also has the support of Republican Sen. Steve Litzow and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Democrat who has aligned himself with Republicans this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Last modified: February 13. 2013 8:22AM
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