The remarks by GOP House Minority Leader Rep. Dan Kristiansen came as Democrats pushed for new gun regulations in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
OLYMPIA — Washington House Minority Leader Rep. Dan Kristiansen this week told a story about a Norwegian knife-murderer that sounded like it was ripped straight from a Scandinavian crime thriller.
Kristiansen, a Republican from Snohomish, talked about how, during his visit to Norway several years ago, a perpetrator attacked a youth camp on an island — and killed more than two dozen children with a knife.
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“More people are actually killed by knives than by guns,” said Kristiansen in a regularly scheduled news conference Tuesday, after he recounted the Norway story. “Not just in our country but around the world.”
But that knife attack never happened, according to a Norwegian criminology professor.
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And several studies disprove Kristiansen’s assertion that knives contribute to more deaths than firearms.
The remarks came on a day Kristiansen and other Republicans sought to deflect questions about proposals in the Washington Legislature to increase gun regulations.
Spurred by the latest mass shooting — this one in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died — some elected officials are making a new push for restrictions on firearms.
President Donald Trump this week declared he had directed federal officials to ban bump stocks, devices used to make rifles fire more rapidly. The president also sent a tweet urging Democrats and Republicans to embrace stronger gun-purchase background checks.
Meanwhile, the Florida shooting has spurred Democrats in Olympia to revive their push for a bill to add enhanced background checks for the purchase of assault-style weapons like the AR-15.
They don’t have much time — the legislative session is scheduled to end March 8.
Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle and sponsor of SB 5444, said he is working to put together a compromise package surrounding gun violence that would allow some version of his background-checks proposal to pass.
In a news conference Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee urged lawmakers to pass new regulations, including the background-checks bill.
“Our Legislature should listen to our young people who are demanding action,” Inslee said.
Norway hasn’t experienced a mass killing by knife, according to Heidi Mork Lomell, a professor at the University of Oslo.
The only mass killing in modern Norwegian history came from the gunman who in 2011 killed 69 people, Lomell, a professor at the school’s Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, wrote in an email.
That shooting — which coincided with a bomb blast in Oslo that killed eight others — did happen at a youth camp on an island.
Recent research shows that firearms contribute to far more killings than knives.
In 2016, knives were used in 18 murders in Washington state, compared to 95 with firearms, according to a report by the Washington Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs.
Between 2011 and 2015, firearms were used in homicides around the nation far more often than knives, according to data by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A 2013 United Nations study found firearms around the world were used in 41 percent of homicides, compared with 24 percent by sharp objects.
Objects like knives were the leading cause of murders in more countries than guns, according to the report — but firearms caused more overall deaths.
In an interview Wednesday, Kristiansen acknowledged getting some numbers wrong. In terms of the Norway story he recounted, Kristiansen said, he “mixed up some things.”
“What I need to do a better job of,” said Kristiansen, “is make sure I’m not shooting off the hip on things.”
Lawmakers should focus on other causes of gun violence, Kristiansen said, such as mental-health issues and suicide, which account for a significant number of gun-related deaths.
Legislators should also work to make sure people can respond adequately to mass shootings when they happen, he said.
Kristiansen pointed to a Republican-sponsored proposal, HB 2442, that would create a mobile app for students to report mass shootings.
Package of proposals
The latest version of SB 5444 would treat purchases of assault-style rifles similar to how Washington now regulates pistols.
The minimum purchase age would be raised to 21, and a gun-buyer would go through both a federal and state background check.
Frockt said he’s seeking a package of proposals that combines his bill and Republican priorities to “be a really great step forward for Washington.”
One option for a package is a measure by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, that would help schools develop emergency-response systems and help law enforcement get to threats or emergencies faster, he said.
Frockt also said he’s willing to consider changes to SB 5444 to ease the concerns of lawmakers.
Earlier this year, Washington Senate lawmakers approved SB 5992, a ban on bump stocks.
That proposal — which drew bipartisan support — came in response to the Las Vegas shooter who this past fall used at least one such device in the shooting that killed 58 people and injured more than 500 others.
House lawmakers approved SB 5992 in committee, and the bill is awaiting a floor vote.
Another bill still up for consideration is SB 6298, sponsored by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond.
That proposal would make it unlawful for a person to possess a firearm if that person was convicted of the crime of harassment against a family or household member.
SB 6298 passed through the Senate and is scheduled Thursday for a House committee vote.