New Gun Control Measures Proposed in Washington State by Governor, Attorney General

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both Democrats, announced legislative proposals at a press conference on Monday to prohibit the sale of so-called “assault weapons,” require permits to purchase guns, and make gun sellers potentially liable for crimes committed by private individuals.

The text of the legislation had not been released as of Friday, but the governor and attorney general released fact sheets with highlights of two of the proposals.

The fact sheet for the bill to ban the sale of “assault weapons” (pdf) defines the weapons as “semi-automatic weapons with at least one military-style feature. The weapon’s design allows it to be fired more easily, accurately and rapidly than a typical hunting rifle.”

Details of the proposal to require permits for purchasing firearms were not released alongside the other proposals, but the bill was mentioned in the press conference.

“You need to get a license to drive a car in the state of Washington. You need to get a license to go fishing. It’s time that you get a license to make sure that you have safety training to purchase a gun in the state of Washington,” Inslee said. “It’s high time we pass a bill to make sure you get a permit before you purchase a firearm.”

The other proposed legislation (pdf) would require firearm industry members who conduct business in Washington to “establish, implement and enforce reasonable controls regarding the manufacture, sale, distribution, importing, use and marketing of firearm-related products.” Failure to adhere would become a violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act and its public nuisance law.

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in Seattle on Oct. 22, 2021. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Inslee Points to Recent High School Shooting

Inslee called gun violence an epidemic, adding that over 800 Washingtonians are killed a year due to gun violence, including 23 in November.

“What used to be an argument in a parking lot that might end up in a fist fight, is now somebody dead in the street that doesn’t go home to their families,” Inslee said. “What used to be a fistfight at Ingraham High School when I was there in 1969, was a fatal shooting of a young man in the school I went to.”

Inslee was referring to an incident at a North Seattle high school in November where a 17-year-old boy was shot five times in the back and killed following a fight in a bathroom over possession of the gun, according to The Seattle Times.

Ingraham High School senior Sofie Blazejova spoke at the news conference of gathering with classmates in lockdown during the shooting. She read a text message she sent her sister during the ordeal, stating. “I’m in lockdown right now. Possible gunshots. If anything happens, I love you so much.”

The governor added that the proposed legislation is only one part of what he and the attorney general see as solutions to gun violence.

“I want to make this clear. Our gun safety laws are not the only thing we’re going to do to fight gun violence—we are going to provide more mental health to our young people, we are going to attack the homelessness crisis, we are going to train more police officers so there’s more officers on the street to protect us,” Inslee said. “But we also have to have something that goes to the heart of gun violence, which is that too many guns of the wrong kind are in the wrong hands.”

The attorney general pointed to two statewide polls showing that Washingtonians “overwhelmingly support banning assault weapons.” He said that since 2014, voters had passed initiatives such as closing background check loopholes, creating extreme risk protection orders, raising the age to purchase, and creating “safe storage” standards.

Ferguson noted in a press release that he has proposed an “assault weapon” ban in the state Legislature since 2017.

Opponents Say Proposals Waste Time and Money

State Rep. Jim Walsh, a Republican, said in a statement following the press conference that the proposals were a “waste of taxpayers’ time and money.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court, in its recent Bruen decision, has clearly ruled that state gun-control schemes like these are unconstitutional—and unlawful,” he said in the statement. “They will eventually be overturned by federal courts.”

Walsh added the “performative proposals” are in defiance of the state constitution, which notes the right of citizens to bear arms.

“Any fair-minded person can see that banning an entire category of rifles and demanding a special state permit to buy any firearm impairs that right,” he said.

Representatives for the Washington-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) called foul on the proposals, stating the two Democrats needed a “refresher course on the Constitution.”

“Maybe Jay Inslee should head back to law school so he can get it right,” said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb in a statement. “Driving is a privilege. Recreational sport fishing is a privilege. But owning a firearm is a right protected by both the U.S. and Washington state constitutions. The notion citizens should need a license to exercise a right, and a permission slip from the police before they can exercise that right, is an abomination that clearly doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Gottlieb continued, stating the attorney general’s mention of two polls showing public support for a ban did not determine what are considered “constitutionally-protected rights.”

“The attorney general should know that constitutionally-protected rights are not determined by the whims of opinion polls,” he added. “Both the U.S. and Washington constitutions protect the right to bear arms. Neither says a thing about the type of arms, how they function or what they can, or cannot, look like.”

Chase Smith

Chase is an award-winning journalist. He covers Tennessee and other parts of the Southeast for The Epoch Times.

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