OLYMPIA — Washington House Democrats this year appeared set to move on one of the most stringent firearms restrictions proposed at the Legislature: a bill to ban the sale or transfer of high-capacity ammunition magazines.
It’s a policy that supporters of gun restrictions have called for to try and limit the number of deaths from mass shootings, such as the 2016 shooting in Mukilteo that killed three and seriously injured a fourth.
But as House Bill 2240 prepared to move to a vote of the full House, Republicans rolled out dozens of proposed amendments to the bill. Under the weight of more than 120 amendments — and what could have resulted in days or weeks of debate on them — Democratic lawmakers decided against bringing it to the floor ahead of a key deadline.
The novel tactic likely ended the debate over high-capacity magazines for this year’s legislative session, which ends March 12.
“Nobody could actually remember a time when we worked through 120 amendments,” said House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, in a regularly scheduled news conference last week.
She called the move “frustrating to see” since many of the amendments were so small they changed only a few words.
The version of HB 2240 that Democrats were preparing to debate would have banned the sale or transfer of magazines holding more than 15 rounds. Like its companion bill in the Senate that did not move forward, the bill would have allowed people possessing existing magazines to keep them.
More than 40 of the amendments came from Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor. Young posted a photo on his Facebook page standing next to a stack of the amendments and giving a thumbs-up.
Text overlaid on the photo read: “How do you stop a bad bill while in the minority? HUNDREDS of good amendments and the willingness to fight!!”
Young said he wasn’t just trying to stop a bill he disagreed with, but also wanted to provoke a conversation about technicalities in the types of legislation that gun-rights activists often critique as poorly written and overly broad.
“My amendments were intended to have the discussion,” said Young.
Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle and sponsor of the proposal, has already sponsored a new version of the legislation that would allow it to be considered through the end of the session.
But with the lawmakers scrambling to finish their work in the final weeks of the session, Valdez said he has no guarantees that new proposal, HB 2947, will be given a committee hearing and vote, much less another attempt at a full House vote.
“It’s an attempt to keep the debate going,” he said, adding later: “I definitely have my work cut out for me.”
Here’s a look at which firearms proposals at the Legislature have advanced and which have stalled.
Bills in play
HB 2467 would overhaul Washington’s decentralized and fragmented gun-purchase background-check system by making the Washington State Patrol the sole point of contact for background checks. The current system is spread among more than 200 law enforcement agencies. Studies have described the current arrangement as complicated and fragmented enough to potentially allow some people who would be barred from buying guns to get one.
SB 6288 would create a statewide Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention, housed within the Department of Commerce. That office would, among other things, promote and coordinate efforts by state and local governments to reduce gun violence. It would also set up a helpline to provide counseling and referrals for victims of firearms violence.
SB 5434 would prohibit firearms at childcare centers and require family daycare providers to lock firearms on their premises in a gun safe or keep them unloaded in a locked room and secured with a disabling device, such as a trigger lock.
Bills that died
SB 6076 and HB 2241 were bills requested by Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson that would have, among other things, banned the possession and transfer of so-called assault weapons. The bills never got committee or floor votes.
HB 2925 and SB 6686 were to ban people from carrying firearms on the Capitol campus.
SB 6294 was to require safety training for people seeking to obtain a concealed-pistol license.