Thursday is a second day for celebration among anti-gun violence advocates and those pushing lawmakers for stricter gun laws.
A bill that would ban the sale or use of assault weapons in Washington state passed out of the Washington House of Representatives late Wednesday. March 8 was the deadline for bills to be passed out of their legislative house of origin or be considered “dead” in legislative parlance.
What the ban would do
If passed by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee, House Bill 1240 would prohibit the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, or offer for sale of any assault weapon in the state. If it becomes state law, Washington would be the 10th state in the nation to ban assault weapons.
Jennifer Dolan-Waldman, legislative liaison for Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, celebrated two days of what she called “unusually good news. On March 7, the House passed House Bill 114, a bill that would require training, a background check and a 10-day waiting period for a person to be allowed to purchase a gun in Washington. The bill is now headed to the Senate for consideration. On Wednesday, the House took the same action with HB1240, passing it out of chamber with a vote of 55 to 42.
A long road to get here
“We are overjoyed that the assault weapon ban was passed by the House,” Dolan-Waldman said. “The Grandmothers group has been supporting this legislation for several years and this is the first time it has gotten this far.”
Renée Hopkins, CEO of Washington-state based Alliance for Gun Responsibility lauded the bill’s movement out of the House.
“HB 1240will save lives,” Hopkins said. “We are one step closer to limiting the number of weapons of war in our communities. This advancement would have been unimaginable a few years ago.”
Another bill would allow individuals to sue
On other gun legislation fronts, Senate Bill 5078 was passed out of the Senate and sent to the House on March 2. That measure would allow individuals to sue gun manufacturers and sellers of weapons that have harmed them. If approved by the House and the governor, the bill would make Washington one of only five states in the country to pass such a law.
“It takes a good deal of courage to support any bill about guns in today’s environment,” Dolan-Waldman said of lawmakers who voted for the three bills. She urged parents and others in support of stricter gun regulation to call and thank their representatives.
Not a panacea
Many local parents are have supported a ban, although some stress that simply having a ban codified does not mean an end to gun violence. While we hear a lot of about school shootings with assault weapons, says Seattle mom Emily Cherkin, those incidents do not represent the majority of gun deaths in America — as most digital media reports and social media shares suggest. Cherkin is an expert in the use of digital media and screen time use among kids and families.
“I think any ban on weapons intended for war is a good thing and I am very glad (the House) passed this,” Cherkin said. “But I also realized that a ban doesn’t mean that people don’t have weapons and use them. I think it’s the handguns that we need to be regulating. Those are the ones that are part of daily gun violence and are most often related to domestic violence. ”
What does assault weapon mean?
For the purposes of HB1240, assault weapons include:
- semi automatic rifles with an overall length of less than 30 inches; semi automatic centerfire rifles that have the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and have one or more additional features listed in the bill;
- semiautomatic centerfire rifles with a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds;
- semi automatic pistols that have the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and have one or more additional features listed in the bill;
- semiautomatic shotguns that have one or more additional features listed in the bill;
- specific firearm models identified in the bill; and conversion kits and parts that can be used to assemble an assault weapon or convert a firearm into an assault weapon, if the parts are in the possession of or under the control of the same person.
Several exceptions are noted in the bill, including sales to the military and law enforcement and sales to out-of-state customers.
The governor applauds bill movement
Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a joint statement Wednesday night applauding passage of the assault ban bill in the House.
“Assault weapons have contributed to some of the deadliest shootings over the last decade, and keeping more of them out of our communities will make Washington a safer place,” Inslee said. “I applaud the bill sponsors and the Attorney General’s Office for helping advance this crucial public safety measure.”
While the House’s approval of important gun responsibility legislation is a win, it’s not the game Hopkins warned.
“We are proud of how far we’ve come in the fight against gun violence. But our work is not done,” she said.