The Washington Legislature should adopt the promising and logical gun proposals before lawmakers this session.
Washington has done a responsible job of incrementally improving state gun laws, without stomping on the rights of gun owners. But mass shootings like the one in October in Las Vegas show there’s still more work to be done.
The Legislature is considering four common-sense proposals, including a bump-stock ban. That device was used by the Las Vegas shooter to make a semi-automatic weapon shoot rapid-fire like a machine gun. All four proposals should be adopted, and one more should be added to the list: a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons.
At an emotional public hearing before the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Monday, two survivors of the Las Vegas shooting along with the mother of a woman who was among the 58 killed that day testified. Ann-Marie Parsons of Bainbridge Island said her daughter Carrie didn’t have a chance to run away from the bullets coming from a semi-automatic AR-15 modified with a bump stock. Neither could the more than 500 people injured escape the bullets flying out of high-capacity magazines holding as many as 100 bullets each.
“You don’t have to be a good marksman for this gun to kill a lot of people,” Parsons told lawmakers, while speaking in favor of Senate Bill 5992, the bump-stock ban. “If the gun was in the room right now, none of us could run fast enough.”
Several others gave tearful testimony about relatives who committed suicide using a gun they could easily access. Senate Bill 5463, requiring safe storage of guns, could also save lives, from suicide, accidents and crimes committed with weapons stolen from homes where guns are not locked up.
Another proposal that should be approved is a simple fix of background-check laws to make sure people who purchase long guns go through the same thorough process as handgun purchasers. In addition to the federal background check required for all weapon sales, people buying handguns are also required to go through a state background check. They also must wait up to 10 days for that check of Washington State Patrol and Department of Licensing databases as well as the state and local mental health agencies before they can leave the store with a gun. Purchasers of rifles and other long guns have no waiting period.
Senate Bill 5444 may have stopped the 19-year-old who easily purchased a semi-automatic rifle and then used it to kill three former classmates at a Mukilteo house party in July 2016.
Some proposals need fine tuning to resolve, for example, a debate over how many bullets truly constitute a “high-capacity” magazine. Opponents of Senate Bill 6049 said 10 bullets is too low a limit as typical magazines for semi-automatic hand guns hold at least 15 rounds. Lawmakers can continue to work on this question. Gun legislation is being given a fair hearing because of the committee’s new chair, Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle.
A fifth proposal, Senate Bill 6146, which would give local municipalities the authority to regulate firearms, should be rejected. Gun laws should be established statewide, or preferably at the federal level, not by municipalities.
Sensible gun laws make Washington safer for children, for people gathered in public places, and for suicidal teens and adults who should not have easy access to a firearm.