OLYMPIA — Extending gun-free zones to include child care centers. Banning high-capacity magazines. Creating a licensing system for ammunition sellers.
With the Washington Legislature starting back up in January, gun-safety advocates, led by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, are planning a fresh push to pass new firearms restrictions.
In a short, 60-day session that includes a new Democratic House speaker, it remains to be seen whether the proposals — some of which have been introduced before — can pass.
Spurred by continuous, high-profile shootings in Washington and around the nation, the legislation comes after a multiyear effort to tighten state gun laws.
Since 2018, when the party took unified control in Olympia, Democratic majorities have approved a slew of restrictions. Those include bans on bump stocks and undetectable “ghost guns” and legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
Many gun-rights advocates have decried the accumulation of those new laws — especially Initiative 1639, which included the semiautomatic rifle restrictions — as an infringement on their Second Amendment rights.
County sheriffs have said they won’t enforce the law, and a group upset by them last month met to discuss a citizens arrest of Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s 2020 legislative agenda “represents our continued approach to balance rights and responsibilities” to keep communities safe, said Renée Hopkins, chief executive officer of the group.
Bills to expand gun-free zones and ban high-capacity magazines stalled during the session earlier this year, but Hopkins and others hope to get them through now.
Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle, sponsored the high-capacity magazine bill, which got a public hearing and committee vote before it stalled.
Valdez said he plans to introduce a new version of the ban, which will be officially requested by both Ferguson and Gov. Jay Inslee. The bill would prohibit sales of magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition, said Valdez.
“I think our Washington state residents want us to take action, they want to ensure that our state and our Legislature are doing everything they can” to keep people safe, he said.
Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline, sponsored a version of the gun-free zone legislation last year. The proposal would expand the existing prohibition of guns in certain areas — such as at K-12 schools — to child care centers, parks and libraries.
Davis said a pared-down version that just expands the prohibition to child care centers, which passed the Senate last year, could be more likely to pass in 2020.
The idea behind the proposal, Davis said, is that “kids should be safe where they learn and play.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Amy Walen, D-Kirkland, is writing legislation that would start to regulate the sale of ammunition.
Her bill would prohibit individuals who aren’t allowed to possess a firearm from having ammunition, too. It would require businesses that want to sell ammunition but aren’t already authorized firearms dealers to get a license, she said.
And Walen said she wants to create a voluntary program for sellers to report purchases of extraordinarily large amounts of ammunition.
For example, if someone “comes in to buy 1,000 rounds, I would be worried,” she said.
But advocates of firearms restrictions won’t be the only ones introducing legislation.
At least two pro-gun-rights bills are likely to be introduced, according to Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen.
One includes the conservative approach to gun-free zones. That bill “would create liability” for gun-free zones in public spaces “in the event that a shooting happened and people were not able to protect themselves,” said Walsh.
Another proposal would create a tax break for buying and selling certain firearms products, which Walsh called a response to the tax on firearms and ammunition that the city of Tacoma recently approved.
But Walsh acknowledged the strong Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, saying, “We’re basically in a defensive crouch for the legislative session.”
Both Walsh and Democratic lawmakers are looking with hope to incoming Democratic House Speaker Rep. Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma.
Walsh said he hopes Jinkins prioritizes an efficient 60-day session “with a tight fiscal focus.”
Democrats, meanwhile, note that Jinkins previously co-sponsored the ban on high-capacity magazines and expansion of gun-free zones.
Walen noted that some of the bills have been debated before, adding, “I think she’s going to let us move on them.”