Approaches to Gun Safety in the Legislature
Like many of you, we are horrified by recent mass shootings around the country that have claimed so many innocent lives. Whether in Las Vegas, or Sutherland Springs, or Tehama County, the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in our country has been weighing heavily on our minds. Our children should not have to fear being shot at school, like what happened in September at Freeman High School in Spokane County, when one student was killed and three others were wounded.
Both of us are ready to look at what specific actions could be taken at the legislative level to help keep our schools and communities safer and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people determined to harm others. That’s why we’re glad the House Judiciary committee held a work session this week on the different types of firearms and the current state laws that regulate each type. In order to consider new legislation, we first need to understand what laws are already on the books and how they are applied. The committee also heard a presentation on the public health impact of firearms by a pediatric physician from Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Any potential bills would need bipartisan support to pass both chambers, and we think well-crafted legislation that balances rights with responsibilities would attract support from both sides of the aisle. That’s exactly what happened this past session with House Bill 1501, which cracks down on people who knowingly attempt to purchase a firearm when they are ineligible to do so. Gun dealers must now notify law enforcement of the attempted purchase; if domestic violence is involved, the victim is also notified. This bill passed both chambers with huge bipartisan support. One issue that could unite lawmakers this session is closing the so-called “machine gun loophole” by banning bump stocks, the device the Las Vegas shooter used to turn a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic one, killing 58 people and injuring over 500. A majority of Americans support this idea.
We’ll be paying close attention to any proposals addressing gun violence, and will keep you informed on their progress.
Update on the Atlantic Salmon Release
We’ve received a lot of inquiries to our offices about the release of Atlantic Salmon in Washington waters due to a facility collapse on Cypress Island earlier this year. The Atlantic Salmon are non-native salmon that threatened Pacific Salmon habitats and their recapture was a high-priority for the state. Combined efforts of state agencies, fishers, tribes, and local communities helped minimize the impact to our waters and the native salmon.
While so far we don’t have evidence that Atlantic salmon from this or any other net pen have interbred with our native salmon runs or have established a local invasive population, there is still a strong likelihood that escaped salmon will compete with native salmon for food and may even eat native Pacific juvenile salmonids.
Until the investigation into this incident is complete, there will be no new net pens established for non-native salmon. Governor Inslee and Commissioner Franz are committed to ensuring the issues that led to this failure are addressed. Here in the Legislature, the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee met and received updates from various departments, including Fish and Wildlife, Ecology, and Natural Resources. If you’re interested in watching the work session with these updates, you can watch it by clicking this link.
Several of our colleagues have announced plans to introduce legislation to help avoid this type of incident in the future and we’ll be watching for those bills to let you know what next steps will be.
As we head into the 2018 session, we’ll be sending more frequent updates. Please contact us with questions, concerns, or thoughts on upcoming or potential legislation in the Washington State Legislature.