Kagi sponsors firearm-storage bill in legislature

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Rep. Kagi
Photo by Legislative Support Services
By Evan Smith

State Rep. Ruth Kagi is sponsoring a bill in the legislature to require firearms storage.

The bill would hold a gun owner responsible if a child, violent felon, domestic abuser or anyone prohibited from access to firearm uses the owner’s gun to kill someone. The gun owner could be found guilty of the crime of community endangerment due to unsafe storage of a firearm.

The bill also would require firearms dealers to offer to sell or give the buyer a locked box, a lock or something to keep the gun from discharging.

Kagi had introduced a similar bill in the House of Representatives last year, a bill that died in the House Judiciary Committee.

While last year’s bill would have required owners to keep guns from children, this year’s bill would keep guns from all people prohibited from having firearms.

Kagi said last week that she decided to widen the scope of the bill because of the September shooting at the Cascade Mall in Burlington. The man accused of killing five people at the Cascade Mall had been under a court order not to possess firearms because of a domestic violence charge.

While the 2016 bill died in the Judiciary Committee, Kagi said that she now has renewed hope for such legislation after 69 percent of Washington voters approved a November statewide initiative that allows courts to issue extreme-risk protection orders to temporarily prevent access to firearms, a measure that passed in 32 of the state’s 39 counties.

She also noted that in 2014 Washington voters gave 59 percent approval to an initiative to expand background checks for firearm sales and transfers, and gave 55 percent disapproval to a measure that would have limited state gun restrictions. Kagi said that she believes that legislators eventually will get the voters' message.

Kagi said that one of her aims with this bill is to prevent youth suicide, 75 percent of which happen at home, mostly during a teenager’s moment of despair.

She said that groups supporting the bill include the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Mothers Demand Action and Grandmothers against Gun Violence.

She introduced her bill in the House of Representatives last week with 31 co-sponsors, more than half of the 49 supporters it needs to pass in the House and more than double the 14 who signed on to last year’s bill.

Kagi’s bill, House Bill 1122, had a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Thursday February 2, with 18 people testifying, half in favor and half against it, while many others didn’t get a chance to testify. Fourteen state senators have introduced a companion bill, Senate Bill 5463.

Kagi added, “When there is an unsecured gun in a house, it is too easy for a child to accidentally shoot themselves or their friend, or for a teenage moment of despair to turn into a tragedy. 
"There is no single thing we can do to prevent all gun-related tragedies, but working to keep guns out of the hands of children and adults prohibited from possessing firearms will make a difference.”

Kagi and Sen. Guy Palumbo, prime sponsor in the Senate, said in the press release that it now is virtually impossible to hold anyone accountable if a child or prohibited person – such as a violent felon, domestic abuser or someone subject to a domestic violence or extreme risk protection order – gets access to an unsecured firearm and uses it to kill or hurt themself or someone else.

They said that their bills are based on successful policies in Florida and 28 other states, bills that they say have helped keep guns out of dangerous hands.

The bills would require firearms dealers, in addition to offering to sell gun purchasers a lock box or device that prevents the firearm from discharging, also to post notices in their stores that failure to store a weapon properly or leave the weapon unsecured could result in criminal prosecution.

The press release noted that the proposed law would not mandate how a firearm should be stored — just require that adults take the responsibility of storing firearms in ways that they can’t be easily found by children or anyone else who is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Among co-sponsors of Kagi’s bill are State Reps. Jessyn Farrell and Cindy Ryu.

State Sen. David Frockt is a co-sponsor of the senate bill.

Kagi and Ryu are Democrats representing the 32nd Legislative District, including the city of Shoreline and part of northwest Seattle, south Edmonds, the town of Woodway and nearby unincorporated areas of southwest Snohomish County, the city of Lynnwood and part of Mountlake Terrace.

Democrats Frockt and Farrell represent the 46th Legislative District, including Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and part of northeast Seattle.

In the press release, Palumbo said that guns taken from the home have been at the heart of some of the most tragic gun violence incidents in Washington state.

In addition to the Cascade Mall shooting, he pointed to the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting by a 15-year-old boy in 2014. He added that during a 25-year period, more than 65 percent of school shooters obtained the firearm at their homes or at the home of a relative.

“This bill is about accountability,” Palumbo said Jan. 25. “So many of the tragic shootings we have seen lately could have been prevented if the gun owner had simply taken the time to store the weapon properly.”

Evan Smith can be reached at schsmith@frontier.com.


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