Kennewick City Council votes to oppose state bills for universal background checks

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldMarch 19, 2013 

The Kennewick City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose proposed state legislation requiring universal background checks for firearms transfers.

"They infringe on citizens' rights, and I believe they would have a direct impact on city funds and our citizens," said Councilman Gregory Jones.

Other councilmen said city police resources should be spent elsewhere.

"We have only limited resources, and our law enforcement officers have more to do than process gun transfers," said Councilman Bob Parks.

Councilman Don Britain agreed: "They have the making of an unfunded mandate to have our police processing background checks when they need to be out on the streets."

Gun owner Butch Elrod was one of two men who spoke up during the meeting asking the council to oppose House Bill 1588 and Senate Bill 5625, which would require a universal background check on all gun transfers, even to a friend or relative, and any similar legislation relating to background checks for gun sales.

"I oppose these bills very strongly," he told the council.

The council also authorized Mayor Steve Young to sign and send a letter to the National League of Cities opposing its position on the issue. Kennewick is a member of the league.

Parks drafted the letter, which states, "We have come to the consensus that your support of mandatory registration of all handguns, ammunitions bans and creating more bureaucracy with federal oversight is not the answer to solving gun violence."

The city's letter states the league seems to be sidestepping "the real problem of mental health" and the city would "welcome being part of the solution regarding mental health reforms relating to gun violence."

After each of the seven council members voted to oppose the bills, Mayor Steve Young said, "I will be signing that letter immediately."

The council discussed the proposed state bills in a March 12 workshop and heard testimony from several Kennewick residents opposed to the legislation.

Also Tuesday, the council voted 6-1 to pass a resolution opposing House Bill 1817, known as the state Dream Act, which would allow all students who graduated from Washington high schools to be eligible for college financial aid.

Jones cast the single dissenting vote, saying he did not see the direct link between higher education and the business of the city.

"For that reason I'm voting no," he said.

Young disagreed, saying, "The money for this will have to come from somewhere and it's the cities that support the state so we do have an interest."

Before the council voted, one Kennewick woman at the meeting urged the council to support the bill "which would assist students who are in the United States because their parents brought them to attend college, to continue their education and pursue their dream."

Another man said, "A lot of jobs are going unfilled because of a lack of education. Employers are having to import people with those skills from other countries. We need to educate the youth we have here."

Also Tuesday, the council:

w Named Britain mayor pro tem.

w Awarded a contract for $322,260 to Premier Excavation for the Lakeridge Estates Sewer Local Improvement District.

w Voted to vacate a 24-by-30-foot unused access easement at 8710 W. Victoria Ave. so Brett L. Garland can build a gymnastics school. A new access easement will be located west of the one being vacated.

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