After years of trying and failing, State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee have seen one of their highest priorities come to fruition. The state Legislature passed an assault weapons ban bill for Washington State last week and Inslee is expected to sign it into law Tuesday at 10 a.m.
One of only 10 states
Ferguson first proposed a ban on the sale of assault weapons in 2017 in the wake of the 2016 mass shooting at a Mukilteo house party. When Inslee signs the 2023 legislation into law, Washington will become the 10th state in the U.S. to ban such weapons.
What the bill bans
The bill, HB 1240, was sponsored by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, and prohibits the “manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, or offer for sale of any assault weapon.”
There are exceptions, including one for people who inherit a weapon and another to ensure that law enforcement agencies can continue to purchase assault weapons from licensed manufacturers and dealers. Among other exceptions, the bill would also not regulate possession for state residents who already own an assault weapon. The ban covers a list of specific models — including AK-47s and AR-15s, weapons that have been used in a majority of mass shootings across the U.S. According to the Attorney General’s office, two semi-automatic weapons, will remain on the market.
“Not place for weapons of war”
“Stop and think for a moment that firearms are now the leading cause of death among children in the U.S.,” Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, said of the ban’s passage. “Not traffic accidents. Not cancer or other illnesses. Not poisoning. Firearms. To ignore the seemingly endless instances of gun violence in our country would put us on the wrong side of history.
“These weapons of war have no place in our schools, places of worship, our streets or in our communities,” Kuderer said. “Banning assault weapons marks a victory for common sense and will help us move toward a safer future for Washingtonians.”
With the passage of the assault weapons ban and other key gun safety legislation, “the gun violence prevention agenda has been advanced greatly,” said Jennifer Dolan-Waldman, vice chair of the Seattle-based Grandmothers Against Gun Violence board of directors.
“As a result of this year’s legislative activity, Washington state now leads the country in efforts to reduce gun access through a ban on the purchase of assault weapons; requiring training and a 10-day waiting period prior to purchase of a firearm; and creating the ability to sue gun manufacturers for damage sustained through their firearms,” Dolan Waldman said. “These issues add to already established laws, universal background checks, high-capacity magazine bans and restrictions on gun use in sensitive locations.”
“Significant progress has been made in-state. However, as is evidenced by the ongoing issues throughout the country, federal action on these issues is needed,” Dolan-Waldman said. “With neighboring states having very different laws and restrictions, it is relatively easy for weapons to move across borders. Plans for next year’s agenda are not yet identified but the work continues daily as efforts are made to bring the laws into effect and to focus on communities that are particularly impacted by gun violence.” The 2023 session of the Washington State Legislature ends April 23.
Multiple federal courts upheld ban laws as constitutional, although threats of lawsuits against the approved legislation have been threatened.