Gun Love Stronger Than Sense

Pols are noncommittal on a gun-control bill—even in the wake of three recent police shootings.

You would think that if ever there were a political climate favorable for gun-control legislation, it would be now. With the state reeling from the third police killing in two months, legislators surely feel the need to do something. A proposed assault-weapons ban, to be introduced in the coming legislative session, would seem like a place to start. Yet only two weeks after Washington CeaseFire's Dec. 17 press conference to announce the planned bill, its prospects look dim. "Frustrating, that would be the word," CeaseFire president Ralph Fascitelli says, speaking of the reaction he's getting from key politicians as he lobbies for the proposal. "We don't have the votes," he recalls House Speaker Frank Chopp telling him recently. Fascitelli says the powerful Seattle Democrat alluded to a bloc of approximately 20 representatives in his party who are opposed to gun-control legislation. In any case, Chopp told Fascitelli, he was preoccupied by the budget and upcoming elections. House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler (D-Hoquiam) also gave Fascitelli little reason to hope. Fascitelli says Kessler called the assault-weapons bill an "ancillary issue." Kessler doesn't recall that, but says the planned bill "is just one of many issues out there." She adds that she has not yet taken a position on the proposal. Nor has Gov. Chris Gregoire, according to spokesperson Karina Shagren, who says the governor is waiting for recommendations from a summit of five law-enforcement groups, to be held next week, charged with reviewing the recent cop-killings. One of those groups is the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs, which has decided not to take a position on the proposed bill. Don Pierce, the organization's executive director, says that members expressed mixed feelings at a meeting in November, with sheriffs trending more critical of gun control than police chiefs. Why? "They're elected," he explains. Contrary to a Dec. 16 report in The Seattle Times, the Seattle Police Department has not officially come out in favor of an assault-weapons ban, although it is "supportive of the work CeaseFire is doing," according to spokesperson Mark Jamieson. "We understand that discussion of gun-rights legislation is polarizing," he says. While the bill has yet to be introduced and debated, Fascitelli already sounds bitter. When it comes to gun control, he says, "there is no leadership in this state."

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