Washington state senators hear testimony for gun control bills

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Lawmakers in Olympia are back in full-swing debating gun control reforms. Monday morning, the Senate Law & Justice Committee heard public testimony for several bills.

Senate Bill 6077 would prohibit any person in Washington state from manufacturing, possessing, distributing, importing, transferring, selling, or purchasing “large-capacity magazines.”

Exceptions include people who already own such magazines, as well as law enforcement officers. The bill defines “large-capacity magazines” as “an ammunition feeding device with the capacity to accept more than ten rounds of ammunition.”

“We are here today to interrupt the cycle and say enough is enough,” said Senator Patty Kuderer.

The hearing room was packed with gun control supporters and those defending the rights of gun owners.

“America has a gun violence problem," said Kuderer. “We see this in the news nearly every day and every year about 40,000 people die of gun violence. Today, our children are forced to prepare with active shooter drills for the very real possibility of gun violence occurring in their classroom.”

Some opposing the bill claimed gun violence claims more lives in other ways that would defy the purpose of a ban on magazine size.

“There’s an awful lot of people dying from suicide and we continue to look the other way and focus our energy on these high emotional issues,” said Daniel Mitchell. “We let these other people hit the ground.”

“Don’t take away our right with the option of the device that works best for us,” said Jane Milhanz.

Milhanz testified that she survived being attacked in her own home and worries limiting the number of bullets in a magazine could mean the difference of life and death for other victims of crime.

“In a personal defense situation, it may take more than ten rounds to stop a threat. Ask any law enforcement officer. Should it take more this bill puts women at a dangerous risk of being defenseless,” she said.

“While we know law abiding citizens will be impacted by this ban, we also know it’s unlikely to impact crime,” said NRA Lobbyist Keely Hopkins during testimony. "Following the magazine ban at the federal level, a comprehensive study by the Centers for Disease Control concluded the ten-round limit on magazines had no impact on crime and did not have an effect on multiple victim crimes.”

Others in the crowd supporting the ban say if the bill had already been law some deaths could have been prevented, including at a shooting in Mukilteo.

“Since July 30, 2016, I have done everything I can, both as a Deputy Prosecutor and as the county Prosecutor, to honor the memory of Jake and Ana and Jordan, and everyone else who has died as a consequence of gun violence,” said Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell. “I urge you to support this bill.”

“The only reason my son was the only loss that day was because the assault rifle jammed,” said Ami Strahan, whose son was killed in a school shooting in Eastern Washington.

“My son was 15 years old, this is his senior year,” she said. “I lost part of my soul and I’m still struggling to recover, and I am quickly, unfortunately, becoming part of a larger group of people due to gun violence. Assault rifles were designed for fighting wars they were not designed to be used by a common citizen.”

Additionally, testimony was heard regarding Senate Bill 6294, which would require anyone who applies for a permit to carry a concealed firearm to undergo mandatory training, including live-fire exercises, basic safety rules including issues surrounding access to children and safe storage, suicide prevention, self-defense and more.

“As a state, we are an outlier and we can and should do better,” said Senator Jesse Salomon. “The bill before you today brings Washington State closer in line with the 40 other states which require some form of firearm safety training for concealed carry.”

The Bill’s opponents say it’s yet another assault on law-abiding gun owners who only wish to protect who they love.

“I agree that training is good, I don’t agree that forcing it on people is constitutional or the right thing to do,” said Senator Keith Wagoner who counterd SB 6294 with SB 6347, which among other things, extends the expiration date for a concealed pistol license.

“My bill is entirely voluntary,” said Wagoner. “All my bill requires is you to make a choice: Do you want to get a little extra training and get two years added on, or do you not want to do that and fall under the old rules?”

But supporters say required training in SB 6294 only makes sense to protect both the gun owner and the general public.

“To obtain a driver’s license in our state, classroom instruction and a driving test is a requirement,” said Rebecca Elbaum, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action. “Getting a concealed pistol license should at least require a training course and an actual demonstration by the applicant they can physically handle and fire the handgun correctly for their own safety and the safety of others around them.”

Lawmakers are considering a number of other bills aimed at curbing gun deaths, including increasing punishments for those who commit a crime with a stolen gun.