OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A proposal to expand background checks on Washington state gun sales has failed in the state House.
Democratic Rep. Jamie Pedersen of Seattle said Tuesday night he was unable to corral the 50 votes necessary to pass the bill through the chamber. Pedersen says he was disappointed by the result, coming even after he agreed to add a referendum clause to the bill.
Gun buyers currently must undergo a background check when they purchase a weapon from a federally licensed firearms dealer. Pedersen's proposal would have extended background checks to cover private gun transactions.
The National Rifle Association had been advocating in the state in recent weeks to block the bill, with opponents of the measure saying it wouldn't stop gun violence.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
Washington voters may get the final say on whether the state expands background checks on gun sales, as proponents said Tuesday a public vote was necessary to move the idea forward.
Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said he planned to add a referendum clause to secure enough votes to pass the measure out of his chamber. If the measure is approved in both chambers, Pedersen said he expects the National Rifle Association to lead an effort to stop it.
"I feel a pretty good amount of confidence that it works and that we can defend it at the ballot box," Pedersen said.
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 extend background checks to cover private gun transactions.
Under the bill, people who already have proper law enforcement credentials or a valid concealed pistol license would already have the proof needed to complete a private gun purchase. Those who don't have such documentation could go to a licensed gun dealer or local law enforcement agency, then pay a fee and get a background check.
Hope, a Seattle police officer, has 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.
The proposed referendum clause didn't help speed the measure through the state House, as supporters spent much of Tuesday counting votes and trying to determine whether the bill would pass given a variety of proposed amendments. The bill would then have to get through the state Senate, including a committee controlled by gun-friendly lawmakers.
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