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Hundreds sign up to weigh in on WA bills to limit high capacity magazines, open carry

Thousands of protesters at a rally following a march in favor of gun control at the Seattle Center on March 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

While COVID-19 and police reform may be top of mind, lawmakers are making plenty of time for some of the more familiar proposals, including the effort to ban so-called high capacity magazines.

Open carry, high capacity mags top WA gun safety group’s agenda

For at least the fourth straight year, Democrats in the Legislature will try to make it illegal to buy, possess, manufacture, or sell magazines with more than 10 rounds in Washington state.

“All six of the deadliest mass shootings in the last decade — Las Vegas, Orlando, Newtown, Sutherland Springs, El Paso, and Parkland — have involved high capacity magazines, and in our state mass shootings in Mukilteo, downtown Seattle, Burlington, and Spokane have all involved high capacity magazines,” said Democrat Senator Marko Liias, who is sponsoring the bill.

During a committee hearing this week, Liias pointed to a 2016 preventable tragedy in his district that crushed the community of Mukilteo.

“We lost three beautiful lives — Jordan Abner, Jake Long, and Anna Bui. Will Kramer was seriously injured and thankfully has made a full recovery. Dozens of young people went through something no person should ever have to experience, and the only reason that more tragedy did not take place that evening, more lives were not lost, was because the shooter ran out of ammunition and had to reload,” Liias described, putting a fine point on his position that high capacity magazines are weapons of choice for mass shooters, allowing them to cause maximum damage.

Ami Strahan, whose 15-year-old son Sam was killed in 2017’s Freeman High School shooting near Spokane, was also among the hundreds who signed up to weigh in on the bill.

“It’s widely known that the shooter arrived at school with his high capacity magazine, and he also had a pistol. His plan was to inflict as many casualties as he could. Those were his words,” she told the committee.

“Fortunately for this situation, his gun jammed, so he was left with his 32-caliber pistol instead, which he used to shoot and kill my son,” Strahan explained.

Others who’ve experienced similar tragedies also spoke, including several who were impacted by the Las Vegas shooting.

“My sister Alicia and her husband Nick watched Jason Aldean as he closed out the Route 91 Harvest Festival. As they ran for their lives, they dove to the ground in a brief pause in the gunfire. They ran again and Alicia was shot in the back,” said the brother of one victim who survived her injuries.

The mother of former Bainbridge Island resident Carrie Parsons was not as fortunate, once again sharing her story of her daughter being one of nearly 60 people killed during that Las Vegas shooting.

Paul Kramer, who championed I-1639 and whose son was shot but survived a 2016 Mukilteo house party shooting, also testified in support of the bill, as did many others.

“Restricting access to high capacity magazines will help reduce the scope of gun violence in our state,” said one man who testified in support of the bill, along with hundreds of others.

But many also spoke in opposition.

“I faced four attackers,” said one woman. “This bill will prevent me from carrying enough rounds to protect me from multiple cowardly attackers who prey on a woman and a disabled man.”

“It is historically and statistically factual that strict gun control laws do not increase public safety,” argued another.

Others point to the fact that most standard handguns come with magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, and said this bill would make them criminals for trying to protect themselves. They also point to a similar California law that was recently struck down as unconstitutional, though that case is being appealed.

Supporters say this proposal is not the same.

SB 5078 does allow for someone to inherit such guns and those who already own them – if the law passes – to be grandfathered in.

Another proposal that got a hearing Tuesday would ban open carry at protests and other large gatherings, as well as on the state capitol campus.

“I’ve been to Olympia on several occasions where there were armed gun rights extremists roaming the capitol campus,” one supporter testified.

“The presence of firearms at large gatherings have created significant dangers,” said another.

Victory for gun rights advocates challenging Seattle’s safe storage law

Those pushing for that proposal say it’s about stopping intimidation of those exercising their First Amendment rights and protecting against situations like the insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, or a recent breach of the gate at the governor’s mansion.

But others testified this bill puts them at risk.

“I was trapped during the CHAZ/CHOP protests in Seattle. Under this proposed bill, I would have been guilty of a gross misdemeanor simply because a protest erupted around me and trapped me within it,” one woman testified.

“When violent protests arrived at our doorstep, this law would criminalize us for defending our property,” said another man.

The open carry bill also attracted hundreds on both sides of the issue.

In the meantime, there’s concern among Republicans and gun rights advocates that these bills are being fast-tracked in a legislative session that’s not quite normal, and likely hindering voters’ ability to take part in the process due to committee chairs limiting testimony on some high profile bills, including the gun proposals.

“This is just another example where this means running our legislative process is limited,” said Senator John Braun in a meeting with fellow Republicans on Tuesday.

There are still other gun proposals that have not yet been scheduled for hearings and are extremely controversial, including a proposed ban on so-called assault weapons, and another effort to repeal the state’s preemption law, which barred cities and counties from enacting stricter gun laws than those of the state. While those bills do not yet have hearings set, the high capacity magazine and open carry bills are both scheduled for committee votes Thursday.

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