Members of Seattle-based Grandmothers Against Gun Violence (GAGV) and other gun control advocates are rejoicing this week after the state Senate passed a bill banning the purchase and sale of assault weapons in Washington. If the bill becomes law, Washington will become the 10th state with such a ban.
A weekend win
In a Saturday session, the Senate voted 27-21 to pass House Bill 1240, which was introduced by Rep. Strom Peterson, a Democrat from Edmonds, and was initially requested by Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The House of Representatives will need to concur with Senate amendments. If no hiccups occur in that process, the bill will move to Inslee’s desk to be signed into law. It would become immediately effective upon Inslee’s signature.
What the bill bans
HB 1240 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.
Gun control advocates celebrate
Still, gun control advocates say the passage of an assault weapons ban is a huge win.
“It was amazingly satisfying to see that something that never made it past the first chamber before has now made it all the way through,” said Jennifer Dolan-Waldman, vice chair of GAGV board of directors described feeling of elation after the vote. “While most of our children will not encounter a shooting, all of them are prepared regularly through drills. They are living in a firehouse, waiting for the alarm bell to ring. Even if it never rings, they have been made aware of the fact that they are not safe and that we can’t protect them.
“Making these weapons no longer available for sale in Washington state will not change everything, but it is a step in the right direction,” Dolan-Waldman said. “It is also a message to the next generation that we hear their pleas to do something to make the world safer for them. It means that Washington state is now a leader in efforts to make our families and friends somewhat safer from these remarkably lethal weapons.”
“This win is truly remarkable for all Washingtonians,” echoed Renée Hopkins, CEO of the statewide Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “For years, gun violence survivors have publicly relived their trauma in testimony and courageously shared their lived experiences with lawmakers in an exhaustive fight to pass these policies.
“The passage of HB 1240 was once thought to be unimaginable,” Hopkins added. “We are so incredibly grateful to the legislators working alongside us to make this lifesaving progress possible so that all of our communities across our state can be safer from the scourge of gun violence. Assault weapons are the weapon of choice for mass shooters and have been used in all of the deadliest mass shootings in the last decade. The Alliance was a major force in moving the legislation forward, rallying the public to call, write and speak to lawmakers in support of both bills.
“We have fought tirelessly alongside gun violence survivors, advocates, and experts to get these lifesaving policies passed,” said Hopkins.
If the bill is signed into law, violators would face penalties for a gross misdemeanor, possibly including up to 364 days in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. An emergency clause written into the bill would make the law effective immediately upon Inslee’s signature. During the debate of the bill, lawmakers said there is no reason to postpone enactment.
“Gun violence is an emergency. Kids getting shot in schools is an emergency,” said Sen. Patty Kuderer, a Bellevue Democrat. “Every second counts. How many (mass shootings) will we have if we take out the emergency clause?”
Dr. Stephan Blanford, executive director of the statewide Children’s Alliance agreed.
“With each school shooting that happens in Washington state and across the country, our frustration grows at the lack of political action,” Blanford said. “School should be where children can focus on learning and growing, yet, due to continued inaction, our kids face the threat of violence in one of the places they should feel most safe. That is why Children’s Alliance celebrates the Legislature’s vote to ban assault-style weapons in our state.”
A critical step forward
Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, a Seattle-based advocacy group, splashed this hurrah on its homepage after the Senate vote: “With this passage, Washington votes to protect our children, families, and communities. We take a critical step forward to save lives, prevent trauma, and reaffirm that our state intends to be a safe, thriving place for all.”
A place different than Tennessee, which has no law regulating assault weapons and was the most recent state to make national headlines with a mass shooting.
“Kids have told us time and again that we need to take action to protect them from active shooters,” said Rep. Peterson, the bill’s sponsor. “They live in fear of on-campus mass shootings every day and we need to step up for them. Assault weapons are the most common weapon used in these shootings and banning the sale or distribution of guns like AR-15s will go a long way to help curb active-shooter incidents.”
“This historic policy will help ensure that tragedies like the one in Nashville two weeks ago will be that much more preventable here in Washington,” Hopkins added.
The see the full list of weapons that would be banned if the bill is forwarded from the House and Inslee signs it, go to The Olymipian. The learn more about gun violence in Washington, check out the statistics compiled by Grandmothers Against Gun Violence.
More at Seattle’s Child:
Taking action against gun violence: a former school principal speaks
RISEing up: A mother and grandmother talk about gun violence
Seattle Student Union statement in response to school shooting