OLYMPIA — Prohibitions on weapons at ballot-counting places, local government offices and public meetings. Restrictions on high-capacity magazines. A ban on so-called assault weapons.
Democratic state lawmakers are proposing a fresh round of firearms restrictions as the Washington Legislature prepares to gather in January for its regularly scheduled session.
Some of the proposals — like the high-capacity magazine ban and the assault-weapon prohibition — have for years stalled at the Legislature, despite Democratic majorities.
Other bills being drafted will present new approaches to curbing firearms — but are still likely to draw criticism from conservatives opposed to any new restrictions.
The coming proposals include creating accountability to the gun industry and others through the state’s Consumer Protection Act, according to the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which released its 2022 legislative agenda Tuesday. Another bill would make it harder for people to possess untraceable “ghost” guns by adding homemade firearms to the existing ban.
Another new proposal on the advocacy group’s list is being drafted by Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue. It would give local governments the ability to ban open-carry of firearms in their buildings or at public meetings, including school boards.
That proposal comes after a bill passed this year by Kuderer banned the open-carry of weapons at the Capitol campus and at permitted protests around the state.
Kuderer is also sponsoring the proposed ban on so-called assault rifles and is expected to co-sponsor the prohibition on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“The reality is that when you have a semi-automatic weapon with high-capacity magazines, you are able to create many more victims of mass shootings,” she said.
“I think that the Second Amendment is in the Constitution, and we all know that it’s there, but it’s like any other amendment,” Kuderer said. “There can be reasonable restrictions placed on it, and that’s what we’re attempting to do with these bills.”
Republicans and groups like the National Rifle Association have for years criticized new gun regulations, contending they are unconstitutional or ineffective.
Since 2014, however, Washington voters have handily approved three new laws — backed by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility — at the ballot box strengthening regulations. Legislators in the Democratic majorities since 2018 have approved other regulations.
But Republicans in 2019 successfully blocked a bill to ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. GOP lawmakers sponsored more than 120 amendments. Debating those amendments would have taken days or potentially weeks, and Democratic leaders ultimately let the bill stall.
Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle, sponsored that year’s version, which originally banned magazines with more than 10 rounds. He’ll be working to pass a version of the ban this year, if it passes the Senate, he said.
“I think that is what our public would expect,” he said.
Last week, Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to pass the ban. Ferguson cited federal court rulings — including a recent 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld California’s ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines — to contend that such laws don’t run afoul of the Second Amendment.
“Please do not squander another opportunity to protect our residents from the next individual who wants to use a high-capacity magazine to terrorize a public space,” Ferguson wrote in the letter.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, said he would oppose any new bills he thinks infringe on his Second Amendment rights, including the high-capacity magazine ban.
“We cannot pass laws in Washington state that violate Second Amendment rights,” said Klippert, who sits on the House Public Safety Committee.
A high-capacity magazine ban wouldn’t do much to stop an experienced shooter like himself, said Klippert, who in his day job is a deputy at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
“I can change a 10-round magazine very quickly,” Klippert said. “And it’s like I have a 30-round magazine.”
Klippert, meanwhile, is sponsoring House Bill 1634, which would allow law enforcement to return to using some shotguns and less-lethal weapons that some believed were outlawed in a policing-reform bill that passed this year.
Another Democratic proposal this year would ban firearms at spaces used to conduct elections. Those spaces include county elections offices, ballot-counting facilities, voting centers and student engagement hubs.
Rep. April Berg, D-Mill Creek, said the idea came after a recount — which allows for observers to come in and watch the process — in her district last year grew tense.
“Folks are upset, they want to make sure the process is fair … I just want to make sure election workers aren’t intimidated,” said Berg, who is sponsoring House Bill 1618. “This is really about keeping our election workers safe.”