Big-box stores such as Walmart should not be stronger leaders on gun control than Washington’s elected legislators. But that is exactly what is happening in Olympia.

Share story

It’s appalling that big-box stores and outdoor retailers are imposing more stringent rules on gun sales than Washington’s Democratic-controlled state Legislature.

But that is exactly what is happening as state lawmakers tiptoe away from minimal gun-control measures in the final days of their 60-day session in Olympia.

Since the Feb. 14 school shooting that claimed 17 lives in Parkland, Florida, Walmart has announced it will no longer sell guns to anyone under 21. Kroger, L.L. Bean and Dick’s Sporting Goods have done the same.

On Monday, Florida’s Republican-led state Senate voted for a measure to raise the minimum age to buy a firearm to 21 from 18, as well as to require a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases. Yet in Washington’s Legislature, an extremely modest control measure was languishing Tuesday, two days before state lawmakers plan to adjourn for the year.

Senate Bill 6620 would raise the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21, mirroring the age requirement to buy a handgun in Washington state.

The measure would simultaneously require people buying semi-automatic rifles, including AR-15s, to undergo the same type of background checks as handgun buyers. The bill includes several school-safety measures sought by Republicans and does not limit purchases of simple hunting rifles.

This is no-brainer legislation that corrects an unsettling gap in state law.

We’ve seen what can happen under the status quo. In 2016, 19-year-old Alan Ivanov bought an AR-15 rifle then used it a week later to kill his ex-girlfriend, Anna Bui, and two former classmates, Jake Long and Jordan Ebner, at a house party in Mukilteo, while severely injuring Will Kramer. Ivanov would not have been allowed to buy a handgun, but he was allowed to legally buy a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.

The Legislature really should ban such weapons outright.

In the meantime, it should not hesitate to require those buying weapons that can create carnage to undergo the same scrutiny as those purchasing a pistol. SB 6620 is the bare minimum Washington lawmakers should do to regulate the military-style weapons that shooters have used in Parkland and other recent massacres.

Washington legislators’ cautiousness is far out of step with public sentiment. Recent polling has found that two-thirds of Americans favor stronger gun-control measures, while 67 percent also support a nationwide ban on assault weapons.

Businesses and traumatized schoolchildren should not be leading the way when it comes to public safety. Our elected leaders should be.

Citizens should call the Legislature’s hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and urge their senators and representatives to support SB 6620.

Washington’s lawmakers have two days left to show they can be as least as forward-thinking and progressive as Walmart when it comes to gun purchases.

Their constituents are watching and waiting for them to step up.