State Senate committee passes ban on sale of assault weapons

Mar 29, 2023, 8:25 AM | Updated: 10:58 am

FILE - Semi-automatic rifles are displayed at Coastal Trading and Pawn, Monday, July 18, 2022, in A...

FILE - Semi-automatic rifles are displayed at Coastal Trading and Pawn, Monday, July 18, 2022, in Auburn, Maine. President Joe Biden and the Democrats have become increasingly emboldened in pushing for stronger gun control. The Democratic-led House passed legislation in July to revive a 1990s-era ban on certain semi-automatic guns, with Biden’s vocal support. And the president pushed the weapons ban nearly everywhere that he campaigned this year. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

A bill that would ban the sale of assault weapons in Washington state passed the Senate Law & Justice Committee Tuesday afternoon.

House Bill 1240 defines dozens of guns that would be banned from sale in Washington, including modifications that would add weapons to the list.

Ross: The assault weapons ban in the words of the legislators

Democrats in the hearing said the legislation could prevent mass shootings, especially in light of Monday’s shooting at a Nashville elementary school. Three students and three staff members of The Covenant School were killed by a former student.

“I believe we should recognize and appreciate that we have an opportunity to do more today than thoughts and prayers. We have an opportunity to take action,” said Sen. Yasmine Trudeau (D-Tacoma).

Republicans argued that the bill would ban guns or attachments that would not go towards preventing any mass shootings, including silencers. They attributed the restriction on gun access to the rising crime rates many cities in the state are seeing.

As written, the bill prohibits the sale, manufacture, and import of assault weapons in the state, but there are exemptions for law enforcement and the military. Those who already own assault weapons would be allowed to keep them.

The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds).

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office says eight states have adopted similar legislation banning these weapons. Multiple federal courts upheld these public safety laws as constitutional.

In a prepared statement, Ferguson said, “The House put public safety above the interest of the gun lobby. The devastation of mass shootings extends far beyond the casualties and injuries. Mass shootings traumatize entire communities. We must stop selling these weapons of war in Washington.”

Opponents of the measure said it was inaccurate to use the term “assault weapons” because it is not a well-defined term and is also vague.

Currently, a 10-day waiting period is mandatory in Washington when purchasing a semiautomatic assault rifle.

In 2018, Washington voters passed Initiative 1639 to implement the semiautomatic rifle waiting period. It required purchasers of semiautomatic weapons to complete enhanced background checks and enacted a waiting period. The law also made it illegal for people under 21 to purchase semiautomatic assault rifles.

If passed by the Legislature and signed by Inslee, the legislation would go into effect immediately.

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State Senate committee passes ban on sale of assault weapons