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Gov. Inslee, AG seek ‘assault weapons’ ban, more gun laws to fight mass shootings

Guns. (KIRO 7 image)

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee are asking lawmakers to ban assault weapons and for new limits on “high capacity” magazines in an effort to combat mass shootings in Washington.

“It took just 32 seconds for an individual armed with a 100-round double-drum magazine and an AR-15-style weapon to shoot 36 people before he was killed by law enforcement,” Ferguson said, referring to an August mass shooting at a Dayton, Ohio nightclub.

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Ferguson, who has been pushing for these gun laws since 2016, says it doesn’t make sense that the same rifle and magazine used to kill so many in Dayton are legal to buy in Washington state.

Inlsee has always been a big supporter of gun safety measures, but for the first time this session he is joining the AG in officially asking state lawmakers for the new gun regulations.

“We should be making it harder for those who want to inflict mass violence and destruction upon innocent people,” Inslee said. “By limiting magazine capacity and banning assault weapons, we can work toward a day where no one in Washington state loses a friend or family members to senseless gun violence.”

Senator Patty Kuderer and Rep. Strom Petersen, both Democrats, will sponsor companion bills in the House and Senate proposing the assault weapons ban.

Assault weapons would be defined as semi-automatic weapons that contain at least one military-style feature, similar to other states with those laws that have survived court challenges.

Law enforcement, those in the military, and recreational shooting ranges would be exempt. Anyone who owns that type of gun before the law takes effect would be grandfathered in.

Kuderer and Rep. Javier Valdez will propose the bills to limit high capacity magazines, defining those as magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

The bill makes an exception for law enforcement, military, and recreational shooting ranges. It requires safe and secure storage for magazines grandfathered in by possession on the effective date of the legislation.

Ferguson and supporters of the proposal say limits on the magazines force mass shooters to reload. That extra time could save lives.

On top of those proposals, Ferguson is also asking for new rules for ammunition sales, including requiring background checks.

Ferguson and Democratic Rep. Amy Walen, who will sponsor the bill, say it’s past time for Washington to catch up to many other states to ensure dangerous people who are not allowed to own guns also can’t buy ammunition.

The bill makes it illegal for violent felons not legally allowed to buy guns to buy ammo, and prohibits firearms dealers from knowingly selling ammo to the or anyone else not legally allowed to buy a gun. Those selling ammunition would have to get a state firearm license at a cost of $125. Existing firearms dealer would not be affected.

The bill also requires background checks for ammo sales, but those checks would not happen unless the federal government changed its rules to expand its system to allow for checks on ammo sales.

“These proposals will make our communities safer, they are common sense, they are constitutional, and it is time to act on these common sense gun reform bills,” Ferguson said.

Some of the proposals have failed in the past and the AG admits it may be a challenge to get some to the governor’s desk, but he is hopeful, as are the lawmakers putting their names on the legislation.

“I think the time is now, I think we’re all cautiously optimistic,” Kuderer said. “We have new legislators, we have new leadership.”

Rep. Valdez echoed Kuderer’s sentiment, pointing to the leadership change with Rep. Laurie Jinkins, a strong supporter of gun safety reforms, who is taking over as Speaker of the House in 2020.

Meantime, gun rights groups criticize the ban as an erosion of their Second Amendment rights.

The NRA says the rifles deemed assault weapons are some of the most popular and commonly owned weapons of responsible gun owners. They say the same is true of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammo, which they point out are the most commonly used in all semi-automatics, including handguns.

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