SEATTLE'S MORNING NEWS

McKenna: Assault weapons may be too ‘commonplace’ to ban

Apr 28, 2023, 11:21 AM

semi-automatic rifle...

Customers look at AR-15-style rifles on a mostly empty display wall at Rainier Arms Friday, April 14, 2023, in Auburn, Wash. as stock dwindles before potential legislation that would ban future sale of the weapons in the state. House Bill 1240 would ban the future sale, manufacture and import of assault-style semi-automatic weapons to Washington State and would go into immediate effect after being signed by Gov. Jay Inslee. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Governor Jay Inslee signed into law a bill banning the sale, manufacture, or import of assault weapons, which has already seen backlash and lawsuits from many conservatives.

The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday to fight the ban, saying that it was unconstitutional under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. Aero Precision Manufacturers out of Tacoma also filed a lawsuit Wednesday in which they argue that “if an arm is ‘typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes’ today, then it may not be banned, full stop,” citing the Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller.

Gov. Inslee signs ban on assault weapons sales; challenges begin

Dave Ross sat down with former Attorney General Rob McKenna to explain the new law and to figure out if these lawsuits had any legal precedence.

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.

poll from last June, by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute found that 56% of Washington voters support a ban on the sale of assault weapons.

Washington is the 10th state — including California, Hawaii, Illinois, and New York — to ban the sale of assault weapons, and McKenna said that the bill has some of the strongest restrictions.

“This is apparently the most far-reaching bill of its type in the country, it not only bans semi-automatic rifles that are referred to as assault weapons in the bill, but also bans semi-automatic pistols,” McKenna said. “A lawsuit has already been filed against it by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and others.”

These lawsuits filed by the NSSF, SAF, and Aero Precision Manufacturers mainly hold that the ban violates their Second Amendment rights by regulating firearms sales, but firearm regulation is necessary and constitutional, Dave points out, you wouldn’t want someone walking down the street with a rocket launcher.

For a weapon to be protected under the Second Amendment, it needs to have justifiable uses that an everyday law-abiding citizen can use, and it must be commonplace enough to justify this. New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen protects the possession and use of weapons that are “in common use,” which is why you don’t see people walking around with machine guns, bazookas, or any other heavy armaments.

“Assault Weapons, as you know, like an AR-15 or Bushmaster, have tremendous power. Second Amendment proponents say, ‘I’m a responsible gun owner, I have this weapon. Yes, it’s powerful, but I’m entitled to have it,'” McKenna said. “Americans buy more of the most popular type of semi-automatic rifle, the AR-15, each year than the most popular type of automobile, the Ford F-150. And there are more AR-15-style rifles in private hands in America today than those that subscribe to all daily newspapers nationwide combined.

“This means that if policymakers don’t like a brand new weapon, let’s say hypothetically, it doesn’t exist today,” McKenna continued. “If they want to ban it, they would need to move to ban it before it comes into common use.”

This is the crux of the lawsuit’s arguments, saying that the “assault-style weapons” that the state has banned are too commonplace and, therefore, necessary for people’s use.

McKenna encouraged anyone interested in learning more about the ban to look into the lawsuits and the legislation.


“I encourage listeners who are interested to go look it up because it really emphasizes that in the view of the Legislature, these weapons are too dangerous to be in common use and that they are, in fact, marketed to young men. Some number of them end up misusing them, but there is strong case law that supports the arguments of the plaintiffs at this point,” McKenna said. “So we should know within about probably two to three years what the final ruling is.”

Inslee also signed two other major gun bills Tuesday, including a 10-day waiting period requirement and proof of safety training for all gun sales, and the ability to sue gun manufacturers and dealers for negligence for gun sales to minors.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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