Washington governor signs assault weapon sales ban
OLYMPIA, Wash. (CN) — Washington state became the 10th U.S. state to ban the sale of assault weapons following Governor Jay Inslee’s signing of House Bill 1240 on Tuesday morning alongside two other bills aimed at reducing gun violence in the state.
“Today Washington state is putting the gun industry in its place and improving the health, safety and lives of our residents. I want to thank the many legislators and advocates who have worked for years to deliver some of these policies to the governor’s desk,” Inslee said in a statement.
House Bill 1240, which takes effect immediately, defines assault weapons as civilian versions of military-grade firearms designed to kill people quickly and efficiently, using features that allow guns to fire large numbers of rounds rapidly. The bill notes such weapons have been used in the deadliest mass shootings over the last decade, as shooters with assault weapons can injure and kill twice the number of people than when using a handgun or nonassault rifle.
The law signed on Tuesday does not prohibit the possession of assault weapons, allowing Washington state residents who already own guns such as an AR-15, AK-47 or M16 to keep them legally. Residents interested in forfeiting their assault weapons can sell them to a licensed retailer that can sell the guns out-of-state.
Inslee signed two other bills aimed at reducing gun violence on Tuesday.
House Bill 1143, sponsored by Representative Liz Berry — a Democrat from the Seattle area — enhances requirements for purchasing and transferring firearms, requiring a permit alongside firearms safety training and a 10-day waiting period while prohibiting firearm transfers before a completed background check. The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
Senate Bill 5078, sponsored by state Senator Jamie Pederson — a Democrat from Seattle — requires gun manufacturers and vendors to take reasonable steps to prevent firearms from being sold to minors, straw purchasers or high-risk individuals that they believe will harm someone. Those who do not follow the new law are subject to lawsuits from the state’s attorney general and private citizens under public nuisance laws. The law takes effect in 90 days.
HB 1240’s sponsor Representative Strom Peterson — a Democrat from Edmonds — has sponsored a version of the bill every year that Ferguson has requested it. Ferguson first proposed a ban on assault weapons in 2017 following a mass shooting at a Mukilteo house party in 2016 that killed three people.
Following the bill’s passage through the state Senate on Apr. 8, Peterson lamented how the U.S. is averaging “well over one mass shooting every single day and have been for years.”
“Gun violence cuts short too many lives, leaves survivors with a lifetime of trauma and forces our kids to live every day with the fear of an active shooter,” Peterson said in a statement. “We need to do more to slow gun violence and with today’s vote, we are taking that next important step to protect the people we love.”
Similar sentiments were reportedly voiced by the majority of Democrats in the state Senate last week when the bill passed, according to the Seattle Times.
“Stop and think for a moment that firearms are now the leading cause of death among children in the U.S.,” said state Senator Patty Kuderer, a Democrat from Bellevue, in a statement. “Not traffic accidents. Not cancer or other illnesses. Not poisoning. Firearms.
“To ignore the seemingly endless instances of gun violence in our country would put us on the wrong side of history. These weapons of war have no place in our schools, places of worship, our streets or in our communities," Kuderer added. "Banning assault weapons marks a victory for common sense and will help us move toward a safer future for Washingtonians.”
With Inslee’s approval, Washington state joins nine other U.S. states to ban the sale of assault weapons, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Purchasing assault weapons is also illegal in the District of Columbia, while Hawaii has only banned the sales of assault pistols.
The new weapons ban is not without its adversaries, though. Also Tuesday, Sporting Systems Vancouver, Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition filed a lawsuit against Inslee and several sheriffs and county prosecutors in federal court claiming the ban violates their Second and 14th Amendment rights.
By enacting the ban, Washington state “has criminalized one of the most common and important means by which its citizens can exercise their fundamental right to self-defense," the groups claim.
“By banning manufacturing, importation, distribution and sale of common semiautomatic rifles, the state has barred law-abiding residents from legally acquiring common rifles and has deprived them of an effective means of self-defense and their fundamental individual right to keep and bear arms,” the groups say in their lawsuit.
They seek a block of the ban along with a declaration that the ban is unlawful.