Large magazines, ghost guns, open carry restrictions on 2022 gun safety agenda
Gun safety advocates will take another shot at passing a ban on so-called high capacity magazines in the upcoming session.
For the fourth attempt, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility is hoping some slight changes in the make-up of the legislature can make the difference and get it across the finish line.
“Washington saw record-breaking levels of gun violence in 2020, and initial data suggests that 2021 has been worse. While high-profile mass shootings slowed during the pandemic, everyday gun violence in the form of community violence, domestic violence, and suicide persisted,” reads the Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s legislative priorities statement. “The communities hardest hit by the pandemic, chiefly BIPOC and low-income communities, have also been hit hardest by the surge in gun violence. In the face of this continued violence, bold action and meaningful investments in gun violence prevention from the Washington State Legislature are urgently needed.”
With shootings, especially in King County, up dramatically over the past two years, Renee Hopkins at the Alliance for Gun Responsibility says it’s more important than ever for the legislature to act.
The magazine ban tops that list. The proposed legislation would ban magazines with more than 10 rounds.
“As we have said many times over, high-capacity magazines turn deadly situations into even more deadly situations and are definitely linked to more people being killed in an incident than when high-capacity magazines are not used,” Hopkins said.
There is significant disagreement over that and an effort to ban what gun rights advocates argue are standard magazines.
“The notion that they want to ban original capacity magazines is kind of silly. It puts the onus and blames a cartridge magazine, which is a piece of equipment, for the bad deeds of somebody out there committing a crime,” said Dave Workman, author at TheGunMag. “I think more emphasis needs to be placed on punishing the guilty party, instead of penalizing a couple of million law abiding citizens in Washington state who may have this piece of equipment the alliance doesn’t like. They’re just going to have to get over that and, besides, remember this too: We’ve got a Democrat controlled legislature. This didn’t get through the Democrat controlled legislature.”
Hopkins says the Alliance for Gun Responsibility is also taking aim at more restrictions on ghost guns, or untraceable weapons, and what counts within that definition.
“We know across the country, and we’re also seeing it in Washington state, that many more untraceable, homemade firearms — not the 3-D printed ones — we’re talking about homemade firearms that you can basically order parts off the internet and they do not have serial numbers, and they can be put together into fully functional firearms,” Hopkins explained. “And those are showing up a lot more in many different types of crime, including, but not limited to, domestic violence. So this was a really high priority for us this year.”
But once again, gun enthusiasts were critical.
“For them to start legislating against what is essentially a hobby with most people is kind of silly. Now, what is a ghost gun? Is that a gun where the serial number has been ground off? Is that a firearm that somebody has installed a replacement plastic, the lower receiver, inside of which is the firing mechanism, and the firing mechanism has to have a serial number? They just don’t take the things apart. So we’ve got to be really careful about this one,” Workman said.
“Again, I don’t think you should be penalizing the home gunsmith who likes to put together a firearm for his own personal use or maybe to have it for his son or his family or something,” he added.
Much of the agenda from the Alliance for Gun Responsibility is similar to years past, including the priority to expand restrictions won last session on Washington’s open carry law. Under the new bill, it would also bar the open carry of firearms at public meetings – such as city council or school board meetings that have gotten pretty volatile in recent months, as well as at election polling centers.
“There are a number of different bills that will be considered regarding the open carrying of firearms and politically charged, contentious environments,” Hopkins said. “We know that does greatly increase the possibility of deadly violence. And it really can have a chilling effect on First Amendment rights, and just access to democracy and the democratic process. So we will be looking to continue our focus on protecting individual’s First Amendment rights.”
Hopkins says the group is also pushing to get the governor’s proposal for $1 million in funding for educational and community gun violence prevention effort upped to $15 million, and focus on the implementation of police accountability legislation passed last session.
But the priority for Hopkins remains the passage of the high-capacity magazine ban.
“There’s absolutely no reason that the state legislature cannot and should not pass this, this year,” she said. “We have seen during the pandemic, not as many high-profile mass shootings, but mass shootings have still been up dramatically during the pandemic. And we know this is a policy that can have an impact on reducing deaths in those situations.”
Hopkins also suggested that the arrival of John Lovick in the state Senate could be the shift that makes the difference in the vote.