As state lawmakers consider two new gun initiatives, a national figure in the gun debate made an appearance in Olympia Tuesday.
Former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly testified in support of Initiative 594, expanding background checks for gun buyers.
“Stopping gun violence takes courage, the courage to do what's right, the courage of new ideas. I've seen great courage when my life was on the line,” Giffords said.
“It will make your families safer by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, the dangerously mentally ill and domestic abusers. It's common sense,” said Kelly.
“The bottom line is this is just not gonna keep guns out of the hands of criminals,” said Washington NRA Spokesman Brian Judy, who argues I-594 wouldn't close any loopholes, wouldn't reduce gun violence, but WOULD adds reams of red tape.
“I feel disappointed that these tragedies be exploited to push such a far reaching anti-gun agenda,” said Judy. “You see in Tuscon and Seattle, the shooter purchased the firearm from a licensed dealer after undergoing a background check.”
Lawmakers are also considering I-591, which would ban any additional background checks.
These dueling initiatives won't likely be acted upon in Olympia with so much divide among state lawmakers. Both have enough signatures to be put on a November ballot where voters will have the final say.
That could create a dilemma for the state. If both competing initiatives are approved by voters, Washington State is largely in uncharted territory said Hugh Spitzer, law professor at the University of Washington.
"It would likely be up to the state Supreme Court," Spitzer says. "Maybe the court would borrow from some other approaches, and say the one with the greater number of votes prevails. Maybe the legislature might would try to come in and fix it with a 2/3 vote in the house. We just don't know."
The public will have a chance to weigh in during a separate public hearing set for Wednesday, before the Senate Judiciary Committee.