The painstakingly incremental process of strengthening Washington’s gun laws can make important advances if the Legislature takes action — and soon. 

For the first time after years of failures, a bill banning the manufacture, distribution and sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines moved through the Senate earlier this month by a 28-20 vote. This progress must not be lost. With the March 10 adjournment just weeks away, the House of Representatives should ensure Senate Bill 5078 is sent to Gov. Jay Inslee to become law. 

Likewise, the Senate needs to send House Bill 1630 to Inslee to enact a good-sense prohibition on unconcealed guns in government meetings and any firearms, concealed or not, in election offices and schools. Nobody needs to strut into a school board meeting displaying a pistol. This measure would be a natural extension, and improvement, on the ban of openly-carried guns at demonstrations and the state Capitol, which the Legislature approved in 2021. Yet it took a party-line vote Feb. 14 to get it through the House.

Frustratingly, state lawmakers seem able to approve such good-sense protections only inch by inch. Attorney General Bob Ferguson has spent much of the last decade proposing variations of bans on highly-destructive firearms to a Legislature that has largely been in Democratic control during that time. Yet Ferguson’s requested ban on semiautomatic assault weapons — illegal in seven states and the District of Columbia — died yet another quiet death this session, never advancing beyond a Jan. 17 committee session.

With the Legislature and governor’s office continuing in the hands of the Democratic Party with its endless rhetoric about supporting gun control, there is no excuse for continuing to allow assault weapons to be sold and distributed in the state. Republicans also have a responsibility to move beyond knee-jerk objections to all gun control and engage in meaningful, thoughtful reforms. The Senate version of Ferguson’s bill had nine sponsors, yet failed to advance. That’s weak. 

The bills that are moving this year deserve the hard legislative work needed to get them into the law books. SB 5078, also a Ferguson request, would make Washington the 10th state to ban gun magazines that can hold 10 or more rounds, which are also illegal in Washington, D.C., and have been used in many of America’s deadliest mass shootings.

Bringing that prohibition to the House floor risks the same shameful intransigence that blocked a similar measure. In 2020, Republicans stalled a ban on large-capacity magazines by filing more than 120 proposed amendments, which could have required days of debate. Such bad-faith partisan gamesmanship must end. Similarly, the Senate ought to be able to consider preventing open-carried guns at government events without proceedings devolving. 

Sensible gun laws would not end anyone’s ability to defend themselves or to enjoy gun sports, including hunting and target shooting. They would prohibit guns in situations where they don’t belong, and make it harder for people with evil intentions to arm themselves to cause widespread death and injuries. The Legislature is close to real advances on two fronts and should push through both worthy bills.