Drive-by shooting bill pre-filed in Washington may never see daylight
The 2022 legislative session in Washington state is less than a week away, and there is much to tackle in the short 60-day session. However, it seems one controversial bill that made national headlines may never see daylight after all.
HB 1692 was pre-filed on Dec. 23 by state Representatives Tarra Simmons (D-Bremerton) and David Hackney (D-Tukwila) as part of ongoing criminal justice reform efforts in Washington. The bill would re-define aggravated murder to remove drive-by shootings as an aggravating factor that leads to an automatic sentence of life without parole.
The bill also would apply retroactively.
Republicans quickly criticized the legislation as something that would further jeopardize the public’s safety at a time when all shootings are on the rise.
“It was reported during the summer that at least nine drive-by shootings in the Yakima area this year have left a trail of injuries, deaths and traumatized neighborhoods,” said Rep. Gina Mosbrucker in a statement expressing serious concerns with the legislation. “This horrific crime is happening more and more across our state, taking the lives of innocent victims, destroying their families, and leaving neighborhoods and communities in fear.”
“What about the victims and their families? Where is their justice in this bill? Where is our compassion for them?” Mosbrucker wondered.
“Washington state is already seeing a surge in violent crime which is currently at a 25-year high, with murders at an all-time high in 2020, up 80% from five years ago,” said Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, the House Republican floor leader, and a former police officer.
“Rape is up 40% from five years ago, and aggravated assaults are up 50% from five years ago. In light of this, why are some elected officials so intent on making it easier to be a violent criminal and releasing murderers back onto our streets?” Maycumber asked.
Reps. Simmons and Hackney make clear in the bill that this is an effort to promote “racial equity in the criminal legal system.”
In a statement to KTTH, Simmons noted first-degree murder was a heinous crime, “which already carries a long and serious sentence.” But, she added, “it’s clear that [this aggravated classification] was targeted at gangs that were predominately young and Black.”
That, she argues, is an example of “systemic racism.”
Despite ongoing criminal justice reform efforts in Olympia, it seems the drive-by shooting bill doesn’t stand a chance this session – and possibly beyond.
“Drive-by shootings [are] one of the eight different possibilities for conviction of aggravated murder. So, there may be a need to take a critical look at the aggravated murder statute in general,” said Rep. Roger Goodman, the House Public Safety Committee Chair.
“Yet this particular proposal comes at a time when we’re already looking at broad sentencing reform. This is a very controversial proposal. I don’t have time for it this session. I am not going to hold a hearing on it. And so the proposal is basically dead on arrival,” Goodman said Wednesday.
Even if it were to pass, the impact of the retroactive part of the bill would be extremely limited, with just one person currently in prison who is serving an enhanced aggravated murder sentence involving a drive-by shooting.
“But he was 18 at the time, and is now eligible to be re-sentenced anyway because of his age,” Goodman said. “The state Supreme Court says you can’t be sentenced to life without parole at that early age. So no one is affected. No one who’s in prison now would be released” under the drive-by shooting bill, if it were to pass, he explained.
In order to move, the bill must get a hearing in Goodman’s House Public Safety Committee and a vote.
“This proposal is, I won’t even say it’s ever going to be ready for primetime. We need to take a much more deliberate, sophisticated look at the aggravated murder statute in general, if at all, and so I don’t have time for it,” Goodman said. “I’m not going to hold a hearing on it. And so that proposal is going to be shelved.”