Lawmakers take a break from gun control debate to shoot guns

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- State lawmakers held a legislative shootout on Thursday within hours of Connecticut passing some of the strictest gun laws in the country.

Emotions ran high back east, but several Washington legislators spent the day firing AR-15s, pistols and shotguns in Thurston County.

Disagreements over gun laws didn't stop both Democrats and Republicans from taking part in the longstanding tradition of taking their guns to the range.

When he's not pushing legislation, Sen. Don Benton enjoys pulling triggers.

"It's unfortunate the focus is on the gun rather than the misuse of the gun," Benton said.

The lawmakers lined up at Littlerock's Shooting Range on Thursday for a friendly shooting competition.

Sen Pam Roach brought her own assault rifle and took aim at Connecticut's new gun control laws, which were passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook Massacre.

"I think the important thing is we support the Second Amendment and realize there are a lot of people who have their lives taken because they can't defend themselves," Roach said.

And it wasn't just Republicans taking part in the festivities.

"I am a gun owner. I have a few different guns," said Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a Democrat.

Since Sandy Hook and Seattle's Caf Racer killings, legislators around the nation have proposed more than 1,300 bills to change state gun laws. Some have looked to restrict sales, while others would ease gun-carrying constraints.

Washington lawmakers have shot down at least six gun bills this session, including legislation introduced by Rep. Jamie Pedersen.

"I think we're in a pretty good place for being able to make some progress on universal background checks next year," Pedersen said.

Only two gun bills are still gaining ground this week in Washington.

The firearms offender database would make felons convicted of crimes with guns register every year for four years. The other law still alive would make it a crime for people who have protection orders against them to own guns.

"We clearly have an important constitutional right that is part of our history and tradition in the state and we're trying to balance that on the other hand with public safety," Pedersen said.

Lawmakers are also considering two mental illness bill that they say could affect gun violence.