What does it take to get responsible gun laws passed? To start, knowledge of the process is helpful. So here it is in a nutshell:
The current session of the Washington State legislature began on January 9 and will end on April 23. During the session numerous bills have been started in both the House or the Senate. If they are heard and passed by a committee in the house they originated in, they move through a process that may culminate in a vote by the full chamber of their origin, eithe the House or Senate. If the bill is voted “Yes” at this point, it moves over to the other chamber and goes through the same process. If the second side votes “Yes,” the bill passes and becomes law.
First step for firearms bills
Of course, there are many potential hurdles along the way. The first step for any bill is to be heard by a policy committee. For most firearm bills, that would be the Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee in the House or the Law & Justice Committee in the Senate. If the bill is passed by the policy committee and there are financial requirements to support implementation, it will be sent to a budget committee to review the funding issues – either the House Appropriations Committee or the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Frequently, changes are made to a bill along the way and a substitute bill is then created, adding an [S] before the bill number.
The good news at this point in 2023 session
The House has passed HB 1230 that requires school districts to post links to information from the Washington State Department of Health on their websites concerning substance abuse and safe storage of prescription drugs, firearms and ammunition. The vote was 58-39 (one lawmaker was excused). The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration there. Find more detailed information about any bill in the Bill Report available on the legislature’s bill information page.
Other gun responsibility and accountability bills threatened
There are only three bills related to gun laws that are still awaiting action, but a deadline is looming. If they are not voted on by March 8, they will be dead for this session.
Each of the bills involved reflects groundbreaking, creative thinking about ways to take meaningful steps to limit access to guns. These bills have made it through all the hurdles except final passage in their first chamber.
Below is a very brief summary of each bill. More information is available through the Bill Report link.
- HB 1143 – This is a House effort that requires a permit to purchase firearms. It requires safety training, a 10-day waiting period, and an enhanced background check. None of these are currently required by state law. [1143 Bill Report]
- HB 1240 – This is also in the House and would ban the sale and limited manufacture of assault weapons, a weapon with an 85% fatality rate. Despite many years of trying to move this bill, the effort to ban these weapons has never gotten this far because of opposition which is diminishing after several high profile incidents. [1240 Bill Report]
- SB 5078 – This Senate bill would allow private individuals to sue manufacturers and sellers of firearms for damages, something currently banned by federal law. The Sandy Hook parents have successfully moved this issue through the courts. [5078 Bill Report]
Take action now
Elected officials pay particular attention to communication from their constituents because these are the people who can vote for them.
Call or email — doing both would be even better — your two House representatives or your senator and urge them to vote ‘yes’ on these three pieces of critical legislation. If you know their names, you can email them by using this format for their email address: [Firstname.Lastname@leg.wa.gov].
Unsure of who your legislators are? Get their phone number and email here.
There is no cost in taking these steps, but the potential outcome could be so valuable. Calling or emailing will take no more than 15 minutes and could make a tremendous difference in the safety of our schools, neighborhoods and communities.