Washington gun bill includes annual home inspections

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Police home inspection
Photo credit LA Times

December’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has prompted lawmakers across the country to propose stringent gun laws. Washington state legislators now say maybe they’ve gone too far.

Washington’s SB 5737 – 2013-14, introduced Feb.13 by three Seattle Democrats, like many similar bills, includes an outright assault weapons ban. Individuals already possessing an assault weapon are “allowed” to retain them, but with the proviso that the owners submit themselves to annual police home inspections.

“They always say, we’ll never go house to house to take your guns away,” Lance Palmer, a Seattle trial lawyer and self-described liberal, told The Seattle Times. “But then you see this, and you have to wonder.”

The pertinent language reads:

“In order to continue to possess an assault weapon that was legally possessed on the effective date of this section, the person possessing shall … safely and securely store the assault weapon. The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection.”

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches, and the Supreme Court has long held that warrantless searches are per se unreasonable absent exigent circumstances giving probable cause. Apparently, whoever drafted the bill believes that possession of a firearm is, in and of itself, probable cause to conduct such a search.

“I’m a liberal Democrat — I’ve voted for only one Republican in my life,” Palmer told The Times. “But now I understand why my right-wing opponents worry about having to fight a government takeover.”

He added: “It’s exactly this sort of thing that drives people into the arms of the NRA.”

As it turns out, two of the bill’s sponsors — Sens. Ed Murray and Adam Kline — took a cue from their congressional brethren and didn’t bother reading the bill before signing on to it.

“I made a mistake,” Kline told The Times. “I frankly should have vetted this more closely.”

“I have to admit that shouldn’t be in there,” Murray said, agreeing that it’s more than likely unconstitutional. Astonishingly, Murray is the bill’s prime sponsor.

The last time government authorities routinely conducted warrantless home searches on this continent, the people responded with a revolution.

Read more at The Seattle Times.

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