In 2013, the Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave Washington a grade of C for its gun laws. Today, the state has a B, a nod to laws passed over the decade designed to make residents safer. By the end of this legislative session, Washington has a chance to move up to an A.
Three bills are making their way through the Legislature that would help make that doable: House Bill 1240, banning the sale and manufacturing of assault-style weapons; House Bill 1143, creating a 10-day waiting period for the purchase of firearms and Senate Bill 5078, which allows the state to sue gun manufacturers.
This is the seventh year an assault-weapons ban has been introduced, and according to a Seattle Times 2022 poll, most Washington voters agree with a ban. Of 825 people polled 91% of Democrats strongly support or somewhat support a ban, while 62% of Republicans were opposed to a ban. Overall, 61% of respondents strongly support or somewhat support a ban.
Under HB 1240, dealers, gunmakers and private individuals would be prohibited from selling, transferring or manufacturing military-style assault weapons such as:
∙ AR-15s (used to kill three people at a Mukilteo party in 2016);
∙ Bushmaster XM15s (used to kill 20 students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012);
∙ All forms of AK-47s (used to kill 23 people at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart in 2019);
∙ Semi-automatic pistols that have the capacity to accept a detachable magazine (used to kill 11 people at a dance studio in Monterey Park, California, in January);
∙ Smith and Wesson M&P15s (used to kill 14 students and three faculty members in Parkland, Florida, in 2018).
These type of weapons, and dozens more, serve no purpose in sport or hunting. Their sole purpose is to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
SB 5078 would allow the state Attorney General and private citizens to sue gun manufacturers, dealers or marketers for violating nuisance laws by marketing guns to minors, for instance, or knowingly selling to a “straw purchaser” who hands off firearms to people prohibited from possessing them.
Not only would HB 1143 create a period in which an irate gun buyer would have time to reflect coolly before making an emotional and potentially deadly purchase, it would require basic firearms safety training, suicide prevention training and training on how to safely secure guns.
Over the years state and federal lawmakers have been inching toward doing the right thing, but the snail’s pace has cost too many lives.
Voter initiatives have closed background-check loopholes, institute red-flag laws and prohibit the sale of assault rifles to anyone under 21. Last year, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a ban on the import and sale of large-capacity magazines. And former President Donald Trump banned bump stocks that alter the firing rate of semi-automatic weapons after a Las Vegas massacre in 2017 left at least 59 people dead. The ban has been challenged in courts, just as some state Republican legislators and gun advocate say will happen with any new laws enacted this session in Olympia.
That threat shouldn’t deter representatives from listening to their constituents, reasonable data on gun violence and their conscience.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.