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Government and Politics
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington And Oregon Lawmakers Eye Universal Background Gun Checks

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Democratic lawmakers in both Washington and Oregon are working on measures to require background checks for all gun sales. A universal check proposal was introduced Wednesday in the Washington House. A similar bill is expected in the Oregon Senate soon.

Universal background checks are a key provision in President Obama’s national plan to stem gun violence. But some lawmakers in Washington and Oregon don’t want to wait to see if Congress acts. State Representative Jamie Pedersen -- chairs Washington’s House Judiciary Committee -- cites this example: at a recent gun turn-in in Seattle people started selling firearms nearby.

Pedersen, a Democrat, says that reinforces the need to broaden the background check requirement.

“This will make a difference in some cases," he says. "It will probably prevent some guns of getting into the hands of people who ought not to have them. And so it’s a small step that we can and therefore should take.”

Pedersen’s proposal is co-sponsored by a Republican who is also a police officer. Nonetheless, the leader of the Republican caucus in the Washington House says universal background checks are “not in our plan.”

The measure would expand the checks beyond gun stores to also include person-to-person gun sales. Oregon State Senator Ginny Burdick plans to introduce a similar measure in the near future.