Proposed bill seeks to ban assault weapons in Washington
OLYMPIA, WASH. - There's a new push to ban semi-automatic weapons in Washington, and some are hoping it passes through this year's legislative session.
Some argue this is what Washington desperately needs, following a spike in gun violence, but others say it's an infringement of rights.
This is the seventh time Attorney General Bob Ferguson has proposed a bill like HB 1240.
Democratic Representative Strom Peterson, who represents the 21st District, says the bill promises to regulate certain "assault weapons" and prohibits their manufacturing, importing and selling in Washington State.
"This bill is complicated, but what it boils down for me is about a very long list of names," Peterson said before the committee.
That list includes Anna Bui, Jacob Long, and Jordan Ebner—who were shot to death at house party in Mukilteo in 2016 after a man walked in with an AR-15 he purchased legally.
"Tragedies like these are happening across the country [it] seems every week," Peterson said.
He says lives are being taken by military-style weapons.
"I think this bill strikes the right balance," Peterson said. "This bill is not about going after people’s guns. This is a bill about just trying to limit the continuing purchase and expansion of the use of these weapons in the state."
Dave Workman with the Second Amendment Foundation says there's a bigger issue.
"I don't think that a ban is going to solve any kind of a problem regarding crime in this state at all," Workman said.
"I hear that, but that does not mean we should do nothing," Ferguson said.
Workman believes guns are not the problem, but rather keeping those who have committed crimes incarcerated.
"I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time, we can address the criminal justice challenges that we have as a society, but make sure that bad actors don't have military-style assault weapons, which caused so much destruction to individuals and kids in our society," Ferguson said.
The Attorney General says studies show banning semi-automatic rifles will cut down on deaths and the use of these weapons in mass shootings.
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Nine other states including California, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Maryland have already banned assault weapons.
"It strikes me as a father, almost more than Attorney General—it feels, to me, this is a common sense approach to address gun violence in our society," Ferguson said.
HB 1240 has already been heard in committee twice.
Ann-Marie Parson supports the bill. Her daughter, Carrie Parsons, was killed in the Las Vegas Shooting in 2017 when a gunman opened fire on a country music festival hundreds had attended.
A total of 60 people died.
"None of them stood a chance," said Parson. "Our family has to live forever with the knowledge that our daughter was killed, shot in the back, while she was running for her life."
She isn't alone.
Robert Schentrup, a Seattle resident and gun violence survivor, also supports the bill.
He recalls Feb. 14, 2018 like it was just yesterday. Both his sisters went to school that day, but only one of them came home.
His sister Carmen was killed in the mass shooting at Parkland High School in Florida, she was one of 17 killed.
"We cannot keep waiting for the next mass shooting to happen, and to happen here; please support this bill to keep military-style weapons out of our communities," Schentrup said.
While some are in favor of tightening gun regulations, others aren’t on board.
Dan Mitchell, a firearms dealer from Vancouver, said where constitutional rights are concerned, there should be no rule or no law making which would abrogate them.
"Passing this legislation will only guarantee legal bills for the state, and fails to address the criminal element absent from this debate," Mitchell said.
Robin Ball agrees. She claims HB 1240 does not address the problem of misuse of firearms and punishes law-abiding citizens.
"Lets give law enforcement more support to deal with potential dangers before they happen, not punish people like me, my family and so many of my friends who shoot for fun," Ball said.
"You can't justify disarming the intended victims and think that's going to affect the real criminals out there," Workman said. "It only looks like you're doing something when in fact you're not really accomplishing anything."
However, there’s a bigger issue according to Aero Precision's VP Janie Vigil, a firearm manufacturer in Lakewood.
"This bill prohibits manufacturing and will result in a direct layoffs—in fact, closure—of our facility," Vigil told the committee.
The impact, she says, would be on their 624 employees, of which 380 are minorities.
"I'm asking for you to stand up for our employees and their families and vote no for this bill," Vigil said.
Ferguson says he's spoken with people on both sides of the issue, and is well aware of the possible impact to our workforce.
While he anticipates the bill to move out of committee Thursday, he says he's confident an amendment will be made to ensure companies who like Aero Precision sell their products out of the state can continue to do so.
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"This strikes me as the right balance with the Second Amendment and public safety, as well," Ferguson said.