Gov. Jay Inslee calls on state lawmakers to pass additional gun regulations in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shootings.
OLYMPIA — In Washington’s consequential 45th District state Senate race, both Democrat Manka Dhingra and Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund said the Legislature must take more action to curb gun violence.
Meanwhile, as details emerged Tuesday about the Las Vegas shooter who killed 59 people, reportedly using at least one firearm modified to allow rapid-fire, Gov. Jay Inslee called on state lawmakers to respond.
When it meets early next year, “the Legislature needs to ban bump-stocks and other devices that turn legal semi-automatic firearms into lethal fully automatic machine guns,” Inslee, a Democrat, said in a written statement.
“We must make sure people intent on causing mass destruction and loss of life won’t be aided by lax laws that give them unfettered access to military-style weaponry,” he added.
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Many Democrats say winning the Eastside’s 45th District Senate seat, and likely gaining control of that chamber, would give them a better chance to pass gun-safety legislation — although several proposals have stalled in the Democrat-controlled House.
A Republican coalition currently holds the Senate by one vote. The GOP has used that control to stop gun legislation that conservatives view as poorly written, ineffective or an infringement on Second Amendment rights.
In recent years, most gun-safety proposals have died in a split Legislature, rarely getting as far as a public hearing in the Democratic-majority House.
Firearms regulations have fared better at the ballot, where voters in 2014 expanded gun-purchase background checks and in 2016 created extreme risk-protection orders, which allow judges in certain circumstances to keep firearms from someone deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Democrats proposed a variety of bills this year intended to curb gun violence — all of which stalled. They included bills to ban or strengthen regulations around so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Other proposals would create a gross misdemeanor for gun owners who have left firearms lying around where a child subsequently found and fired it, and allow gun owners to temporarily turn in their firearms if they believe they are at risk of suicide.
In an interview, Dhingra said she supports all of those proposals.
Mass shootings like the Las Vegas one are “becoming way too frequent,” said Dhingra, a senior King County prosecutor. Her campaign has been endorsed by and received $2,000 from The Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
Englund, an entrepreneur and former political operative, said she supports the intention of the bills for safe firearms storage, voluntary surrender of firearms and enhanced-background checks for assault weapons.
“I am committed to finding real solutions to the problem, and I believe it begins with enhanced-background checks,” Englund wrote in an email. More investments in mental-health programs are also needed, she added.
Englund’s campaign has received $1,000 from the Gun Owners Action League of Washington. While the League has endorsed her, Englund wrote that she doesn’t necessarily agree with its agenda.
“I have not spoken with them about their priorities, as I am an independent thinker on this issue,” she wrote. “That is also why I did not seek the support from the NRA.”
Dave Workman, a senior editor for The Gun Mag, said it was predictable Democrats would use the Las Vegas shooting to talk about gun regulations.
“I think that, in the long run, the proposals that seem to come out after each one of these tragic events would not have prevented the tragic event,” said Workman, whose publication is owned by the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation.
But both Workman and Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said the political ground could shift if Democrats capture the Senate.
“Nothing’s going to happen if we’re not in control,” said Pedersen, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “And if we do take control, then I think there are some things we can definitely do.”
As for an outright ban on assault weapons, “I think that’s a nonstarter for now,” he said.
While he acknowledged that no law would be certain to stop gun violence, Pedersen said passing legislation over time would tighten the laws enough to cut down on gun deaths.