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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 Universal Gun Checks Measure Loses Pivotal Supporter

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Washington Legislature

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The fate of a universal background check measure in the Washington state House could be decided this week. Wednesday is a key cut-off deadline. But recently the gun control measure lost a pivotal “yes” vote.

Maureen Walsh was one of two Republicans who signed onto the measure to require background checks for all gun sales. She says she did so thinking it sounded like a reasonable response to the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.

But soon after, the eastern Washington Republican says the National Rifle Association lit up her district with a campaign piece. It happened while she was in Cincinnati dealing with the death of her brother.

“Suddenly this hit piece came out from the NRA on me," Walsh says. "So I was already down and that really kicked me down and then I started getting numerous emails and letters and calls – probably over a thousand – from folks in my district who were very, very dismayed about my support over that bill.”

Walsh says the reaction forced her to think deeply about the issue. Now she’s concluded that universal checks will just make it harder for law-abiding gun owners.

Without her vote, the prospects of passing the background check measure in the Washington House is a lot tougher. But the prime sponsor, Democrat Jamie Pedersen, is not giving up.

On the Web:

HB 1588: Universal background checks - Washington Legislature