Bills add sensible rules for gun ownership

It’s a cruel reality, but the United States gun industry profits from the debate over gun control that follows horrific mass shootings. While families in Newtown, Conn., mourned the murders of their children, sales of guns and ammunition skyrocketed.

The City of Olympia issued 350 percent more concealed pistol licenses (CPL) in December than in the prior year, most coming after the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school. It has issued 64 percent more CPLs in 2012 than in 2011.

The story is the same in Thurston County, where CPLs were up 27 percent in 2012 over the previous year, and shot up another 11 percent in January over December.

Assuming that more permits means there will be more firearms, these numbers are disturbing for a nation already saturated with firearms.

A licensed gun dealer in Lacey said manufacturers can’t keep up with demand, driven by people who buy a gun, or more guns, because they fear stricter gun control laws.

Laura Wohl, administrative services manager at the Olympia Police Department, said, “We are used to seeing these number swell whenever there is talk at either the state or federal level about restricting gun ownership or use. This rush began after the shootings in Sandy Hook ... and is continuing so far in January.”

With federal and state lawmakers locked in a power struggle with the gun lobby over legislation that might ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, others are attacking the problem from a more promising perspective.

Two bills being debated in the Washington state House this week would take steps toward ensuring responsible and safe gun ownership.

House Bill 1588 broadens the requirement for a background check for all gun sales, not just those by licensed dealers. State law currently allows unlicensed individuals to sell firearms at gun shows and in private transactions without a background check.

Felons and other criminals, who are currently ineligible to own guns, can easily buy guns in our state, because private sales don’t require background checks.

House Bill 1676 puts teeth into the responsibility of gun owners to keep their weapons stored safely. Under this proposed law, a gun owner could be charged with reckless endangerment if a child gains access to a loaded firearm.

The bill would require all gun sellers to encourage buyers to lock up their firearms by giving or selling them security devices, such as “a locked box, a lock, or a device that prevents the firearm from discharging.”

The Legislature should approve both of these bills. It would be a positive first step toward sensible gun ownership laws in Washington.