Washington Democrats finally passed legislation to ban the future sale, import, and manufacture of so-called “assault weapons” and the gun prohibition lobby is celebrating, despite the fact that gun rights organizations have been preparing legal challenges and were poised to launch court battles.
The Second Amendment Foundation, which is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, will likely be at the forefront of the legal fight. SAF is already involved in challenges to bans in Maryland and California, and the ban on so-called “high capacity magazines” in Oregon.
By a vote of 56-42, the House passed House Bill 1240, with floor amendments added in the Senate allowing firearms dealers to sell or transfer firearms that were manufactured prior to Jan. 1 of this year, and only to clients out-of-state, “for the limited period of 90 days after the effective date of this section.”
There is also an exemption for people who inherit such a firearm, with this caveat: “A person who legally receives an assault weapon under this subsection may not sell or transfer the assault weapon to any other person in this state other than to a licensed dealer, to a federally licensed gunsmith for the purpose of service or repair, or to a law enforcement agency for the purpose of permanently relinquishing the assault weapon.”
Democrat Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has been seeking a ban for the past few years quickly went on Twitter to declare, “With today’s historic final approval in the House, Washington will become the 10th state to ban the sale of assault weapons. Thanks to the tireless work of advocates…”
With today’s historic final approval in the House, Washington will become the 10th state to ban the sale of assault weapons. Thanks to the tireless work of advocates, and the support of @GovInslee & sponsors @Strom_Peterson & @senpattykuderer #waleg
— Attorney General Bob Ferguson (@AGOWA) April 19, 2023
There was no small irony in the fact that the ban was passed on April 19, the 248th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts in 1775 when British troops were dispatched to seize arms and ammunition belonging to the Colonial militia. It was the event that ignited the Revolutionary War and led to the inclusion of the Second Amendment when the Constitution was adopted in 1791.
There was some scrambling in the Legislature to pass the 15-page bill prior to April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School attack in Littleton, Colorado.
According to the Associated Press and Seattle Times, which incorrectly described the banned guns as “high-powered firearms,” the new law will immediately ban more than 50 specific gun models. The ban does not apply to sales to law enforcement agencies or the military in Washington state, and it also does not ban possession of guns already owned by an unknown number of Evergreen State residents.
Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee, a perennial anti-gunner since his days in Congress, is eager to sign the bill.
One other thing noted by the AP and Times is this: “President Joe Biden and other Democrats have become increasingly emboldened in pushing for stronger gun controls — and doing so with no clear electoral consequences.”
Republican lawmakers uniformly opposed the ban. According to the AP story, some argued school buildings should be made hard targets via remodeling as a way to address school shootings, rather than infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens. But Democrats, who have been drifting farther to the political left in recent years, were in no mood to listen, rejecting several proposed amendments earlier in the week.
Inslee tweeted Wednesday, “WA does not and will not accept gun violence as normal. Banning the sale of assault weapons, our bill to enact training requirements and a wait period, and the bill to improve accountability of manufacturers and retailers will save lives.”
WA does not and will not accept gun violence as normal. Banning the sale of assault weapons, our bill to enact training requirements and a wait period, and the bill to improve accountability of manufacturers and retailers will save lives. #waleg https://t.co/6ceasI7JuL
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) April 19, 2023
Washington gun rights activists will remember this, because it is the same sort of rhetoric that preceded passage of gun control Initiatives 594 (in 2014) and I-1639 (in 2018) which were both promoted to voters as ways to reduce so-called “gun violence.” But just the opposite has been the case as the number of homicides has risen since 2015, the first full year in which I-594—requiring so-called “universal background checks”—was in effect.
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2015, there were 209 homicides in Washington including 141 involving firearms. In 2021, the most recent year for which FBI data is available, the state reported 325 murders that year, including 209 committed with firearms.
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