OLYMPIA — Testifying in favor of a bill to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines, Ami Strahan on Monday recounted to Washington lawmakers the fatal shooting of her son at Spokane County’s Freeman High School.
That September 2017 day, a student brought an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and a .32-caliber handgun to school, according to news reports. But the rifle jammed, and the student used the handgun to shoot four, killing Strahan’s son Sam.
The shooter “had a plan to unleash bullets out of an assault rifle into the busy hallway at the busy time of the morning,” Strahan told lawmakers in a Senate Law and Justice Committee hearing for Senate Bill 6077. “The only reason that my son was the only loss that day was because the assault rifle jammed.”
SB 6077, the proposed high-capacity magazine ban sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, was one of several firearms proposals Monday that drew a crowd to Olympia from both sides of the highly-charged debate over guns.
Lawmakers also held a hearing on SB 6294, which would require safety training in order for people to get a concealed-pistol licenses. And they heard GOP-sponsored bills — including SB 6402 and SB 6406 — that would create new crimes for the theft of a firearm from a store, home or sales outlet, as well as for the use of a stolen gun.
With Democratic control of the state House, Senate and governorship, SB 6077 could be perhaps the most sweeping new firearms restriction to pass this year at the Legislature.
The bill would ban the sale or possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, according to a legislative analysis. If passed, people owning such magazines before the law’s effective date would be able to keep them, provided they don’t transfer or sell them. The law also spells out where remaining high-capacity magazines could be possessed, such as the owner’s land, or a licensed shooting range.
Such a ban could affect semiautomatic rifles, as well as a variety of handguns and other firearms.
Proposals like SB 6077 brought gun-rights advocates to the Capitol on Friday for a rally, and again Monday for the public hearing.
Daniel Mitchell, owner of a gun store in Vancouver, Washington, spoke against SB 6077, calling it a violation of the Second Amendment.
Mitchell cited a federal judge’s ruling that at least for now has blocked a voter-approved California law banning anyone from possessing a high-capacity magazine. Such magazines have been banned in California since 2000, but people had been allowed to keep magazines they held before the ban. A voter-approved law in 2016 got rid of that grandfather clause.
Mitchell argued that lawmakers should concentrate on preventing suicide, which accounts for the vast majority of gun fatalities in Washington, according to federal data. In 2016, 515 of the 686 gun-related deaths in Washington state were attributed to suicide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There’s an awful lot of people dying from suicide, and we continue to look the other way,” Mitchell said.
Supporters of the proposed ban, however, say the availability of high-capacity magazines has increased the number of fatalities from mass shootings.
Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Cornell told lawmakers a 30-round magazine was used in the 2016 Mukilteo shooting that killed three and seriously injured another.
“We know that half of mass shootings use high-capacity magazines, and that there’s a reason,” Cornell said. “Because mass shooters aim to kill as many people as possible.”
The bills that received hearings Monday are all scheduled to get committee votes on Thursday.
Over in the House, a proposal to strengthen Washington’s gun-purchase background-check system has so far enjoyed bipartisan support.
Sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, House Bill 2467 would centralize the state’s current, fragmented background-checks system with the Washington State Patrol. That bill received a public hearing last week and is scheduled for a committee vote on Friday.
On Tuesday, the House Committee on Civil Rights & Judiciary is scheduled to hold a hearing on several other firearms proposals. Included in that hearing is House Bill 2241, which would ban both high-capacity magazines and assault-style rifles for those who do not own them by the proposal’s effective date.