More reasonable, common-sense gun regulations are needed in Washington state and across America. The state needs to ban assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Share story

RARELY do Washingtonians wish to emulate Californians.

But our sun-kissed neighbors to the south are showing bold leadership in fighting gun violence, a terrible epidemic that has our nation living under a growing cloud of fear and anxiety.

Building on California’s longstanding ban on assault weapons, the state’s lieutenant governor is preparing a 2016 ballot measure calling for even tighter restrictions, including background checks on ammunition sales.

Until a majority in Congress stands up to the bullying of the gun lobby, states must take action to reduce the proliferation of weaponry that maximizes one’s ability to kill fellow humans.

Washington state should follow suit by banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. This would increase the safety of its residents and signal a stance firmly against gun violence.

What’s less clear is whether Washington has leaders as decisive and concerned about gun violence as those in California. Or must we wait for a horrific catalyst like Newtown or San Bernardino?

An assault-weapon ban was floated in Olympia in 2013, after the Newtown, Conn., shooting, but it was fumbled by proponents who since left the Legislature.

Washington took a step forward in 2014 when voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 594, common-sense gun regulation that mandated stricter background checks on gun buyers.

Smaller but important efforts continue, such as Seattle’s attempt to fund Harborview’s injury-prevention work with taxes on guns and ammunition and King County’s promotion of safe gun storage in the home.

Advocates for better gun rules are pursuing policy nips and tucks regionally in hopes of eventually tightening controls nationwide and reducing gun deaths.

Washington should renew its effort to ban “tactical” assault-style weapons and possession of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.”

While that noble work continues, Washington should renew its effort to ban “tactical” assault-style weapons and possession of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

There is new support for this approach. On Dec. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ban on semi-automatic guns and large-capacity magazines in the city of Highland Park, Ill., signaling that such laws don’t run afoul of the Second Amendment.

That’s a relief since too much time has been spent mired in overheated, simplistic arguments about Second Amendment freedoms.

Yes, Americans are free to own guns. No, this freedom is not unlimited. This is obvious and clear in a series of federal-court rulings.

Whether there should be gun control is no longer a question. America has all sorts of gun-control rules but they’re often weak and inconsistent. This patchwork places limits on who can buy guns and restricts access to especially dangerous models.

Of course, California’s stronger laws didn’t prevent the Dec. 2 massacre in San Bernardino. The carnage was likely increased by the use of assault-style rifles available via gaps in the current ban.

Nor would banning particular types of weapons eliminate gun deaths or mass shootings.

But limiting the availability of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines should reduce the scale and severity of future gun attacks.

The goal is about improving the odds, like we do with seat belt laws. People still die in car accidents, but the frequency of death and serious injury plunges when seat belts are required. In the U.S., that saves more than 10,000 lives yearly.

The value of this approach was noted in the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling for Highland Park’s gun restrictions, which the Supreme Court let stand. It acknowledged nitpicks, such as the fact large-caliber pistols are more dangerous per shot fired, then added:

“But assault weapons with large-capacity magazines can fire more shots, faster and thus can be more dangerous in aggregate. Why else are they the weapons of choice in mass shootings? A ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines might not prevent shootings … but it may reduce the carnage if a mass shooting occurs.”

While a tactical rifle with a 40-round clip may appeal to one’s inner G.I. Joe, it is unnecessary for civilians. There are plenty of other options for hunting, sporting and self-defense.

Assault weapons are widely available in Washington and most of America. The status quo implies that we don’t mind citizens using guns derived from battle rifles designed to shoot multiple people as quickly and efficiently as possible.

We do mind and it has to stop.