The Washington Legislature has one week left to do something to keep AR-15s out of the hands of young people under 21.
Washington lawmakers still have a few more days this legislative session to make a decision that would save lives.
Passing a bump-stock ban, as they did on Tuesday, was a good start. Raising the age limit to 21 for purchasing semi-automatic rifles, like the AR-15, and strengthening the background-check requirements for those purchases would be a great next step.
The Senate is considering a bill to do just that this week. Lawmakers should approve Senate Bill 6620, which also includes some school-safety measures, before the Legislature adjourns on March 8.
The bill would not prohibit 18- to 20-year-olds from purchasing bolt-action hunting rifles and shotguns. It would also start a grant program to help school districts improve emergency-response systems. And it would give students and others a new way to anonymously report violent threats.
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In July 2016, 19-year-old Allen Ivanov purchased a military-style assault rifle. About a week later, “hopeless, suicidal and outraged with jealousy,” — as he described himself at his sentencing hearing — he drove to a party in Mukilteo. He used that weapon to kill his ex-girlfriend, Anna Bui, and two former classmates, Jake Long and Jordan Ebner, and severely injure Will Kramer.
He could not have purchased a handgun. State law requires handgun purchasers to be 21 and wait as long as 10 days to buy a gun while an extensive background check is completed. Those rules do not apply to rifles like the AR-15. Changing state law to make all gun-purchase requirements the same might have stopped the Mukilteo shooting and surely would prevent other violent deaths.
Will Kramer’s dad testified this week before the Senate Ways & Means Committee in support of SB 6620.
“We shape the world with the laws we make,” Paul Kramer reminded lawmakers on Tuesday. “The children are watching. We are long overdue for us to send a message to our children that they matter more to us than providing easy access to military-style weaponry.”
Bill sponsor Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, has advocated passionately for stronger gun laws and did not give up when the Legislature failed to move forward on a different version. He introduced that measure to increase the semi-automatic rifle purchase age to 21 and improve background checks at the recommendation of Attorney General Bob Ferguson, another strong advocate for common sense gun legislation.
As Frockt and Ferguson both have said, it just doesn’t make sense to have different state rules for buying handguns and military-style assault rifles.
Stronger gun-purchase requirements are not the only changes the United States needs to stop these never-ending mass-shooting tragedies. But they are an excellent start that would clearly make a difference and show American children that adults agree: Never Again.