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Washington AG’s 2019 legislative agenda is heavy on gun control

A Stag Arms AR-15 rifle with 30 round, left, and 10 round magazines. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has announced what his legislative priorities will be in 2019, with gun control being a primary focus.

“My office is proposing legislation to improve the lives of people across the state,” Ferguson said. “I look forward to partnering with bipartisan group of legislators to make a difference for Washingtonians.”

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Ferguson’s office is pushing 11 bills total. Three of those efforts focus on gun control, while the rest are scattered among a variety of issues such as tobacco use, consumer/workers’ rights, and the death penalty.

Gun control

High-capacity magazine limits: Noting the magazine capacity in various mass shootings (Newtown had 30 rounds; Las Vegas had 100 rounds; Orlando had 30 rounds), the AG’s office says that Washington does not place any limits on magazine sizes people can buy. Customers can buy magazines that hold up to 100 rounds. House Bill 1068 proposes to limit magazines to 10 rounds (exempting law enforcement, military, and recreational shooting ranges). It also requires safe and secure storage for magazines grandfathered by possession.

Assault weapons ban: The AG’s office states that assault weapons are semi-automatic rifles with at least one military-style feature that make the firearm shoot more accurately and rapidly. Noting that less than 2 percent of Americans own such guns, the AG’s office will recommend a ban of assault rifles in Washington in 2019.

Ghost guns: “Ghost guns” are essentially untraceable firearms that are ordered through the mail, and often made with plastic using a 3D printer. The issue surrounding ghost guns arose in 2018, and prompted legal action. The AG’s office will recommend a ghost gun ban in 2019, prohibiting the ownership or transfer of any firearm that cannot be detected by a metal detector, and increases the criminal penalty for using an undetectable gun in a felony crime.

Other legislation

Abolishing the death penalty: Washington’s Supreme Court already ended the death penalty in October, arguing that it was unconstitutional and unfair. The court said the state’s death penalty was imposed in a racially biased manner. The AG’s fix is to abolish the death penalty in Washington state and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Tobacco and vaping: The AG’s office says that tobacco addiction will shorten the lives of 104,000 Washington children alive today. The office is proposing to up the age to purchase tobacco or vaping products to 21.

Wage theft: The AG’s office says that if an employer “cheats” workers out of their wages, but returns the money before the state takes action, they are not held accountable. The office is proposing SB 5035, which allows the state discretion to issue penalties when an employer commits wage theft. Employers could be fined $5,000 or half of the withheld wages, whichever is greater.

Cooling off period (lobbyist regulations): The AG’s office wants to change state law so that high-ranking state officials must wait one year before working as a lobbyist. Two bills are proposed — SB 5033 and HB 1067 — which would establish a one-year cooldown period. The office argues this “revolving door creates the appearance of special access, unfair advantage, and conflicts of interest that undermine the public’s trust.”

Relicensing changes: The AG’s office wants to make paying traffic tickets easier so that more Washingtonians don’t lose driving privileges. The office wants to copy practices in Spokane and King Counties which provide a single contact for people to pay tickets, lessening suspensions. The proposal would create a system managed by the courts.

Pocket service (debt collections): The AG’s office wants Washington to change the law so that debt collectors must serve a summons to people when they default on debts, instead of “pocketing” the summons. It would require them to file a lawsuit within a set amount of time after serving the summons. Pocket service practices have been banned in 42 other states.

Data breaches: Washington law currently does not require online services to notify people when their email and passwords are obtained by a hacker. The same goes for other information that can be hacked, such as tax ID numbers, passport information, DNA information, or health insurance numbers. The AG’s office aims to update definitions of “personally identifiable information,” force companies to notify customers of data breaches within 30 days, and require them to notify the AG’s office within 14 days.

Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi Day: Honoring Americans who were incarcerated under the federal exclusion act during WWII, the AG’s office proposes a day in remembrance of Fred Korematsu of California and Gordon Hirabayashi of Washington. Both men refused to comply with the exclusion act that forced citizens of Japanese decent into concentration camps during WWII. The day of recognition would be Feb. 19.

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