‘It is going to get struck down’: Washington Legislature passes gun ban

Photo courtesy Zerbor
Photo courtesy Zerbor

House Bill 1240 bans the sale, purchase or importation of rifles, pistols and shotguns deemed to be ‘assault weapons’

TJ Martinell
The Center Square Washington

The Washington Legislature has passed a bill banning the sale, purchase, or importation of rifles, pistols, and shotguns deemed to be “assault weapons,” though legislators voting in opposition argued it won’t survive a legal challenge.

“It’s going to pass [the Legislature],” Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, told colleagues on the Senate floor. “I’m sure it will be signed by the governor. It’s going to be struck down, it’s not going to change anything.”

HB 1240 initially cleared both chambers, but the Senate version was rejected by the House for adding an amendment by Wagoner exempting active military personnel receiving orders to move to Washington or military retirees moving to Washington state. That amendment was ultimately removed from the Senate version before the April 18 vote.

The bill specifically bans more than 60 semi-automatic rifles along with a variety of other semi-automatic rifles based on either length [shorter than 30 inches] or whether it has one or more accessory or feature. The legislation makes similar prohibitions on semi-automatic shotguns and handguns.

Republican lawmakers used the Senate floor vote to once more push for several amendments, including one that would remove the bill’s emergency clause. Due to the clause’s inclusion, the bill takes effect the moment it’s signed by Gov. Jay Inslee and does not allow referendum vote later this year.

Another amendment would have allowed gun dealers to sell or transfer weapons banned under the bill for up to 90 days after the law takes effect.

Opposed was Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, who told colleagues “you have the ability to sell it for 90 days to people outside of Washington. Individuals can continue to sell to law enforcement agencies or military. We also have larger businesses they can transfer these products outside of the state of Washington. They’re not closing down and getting rid of all their products.”

However, Sen. Jim McCune, R-Graham, argued that “we’re not talking about one product. We’re talking multiple products. We’re talking about a lot of them. I don’t think they’re [gun shops] going to sell them out of state they’re going to sell them in state. They need to be able to sell their products off.”

The primary argument among proponents of HB 1240 is that it will reduce mass shootings and gun violence in the state, with Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, calling gun violence the “preeminent issue of our time.”

Mass shootings made up two percent of all murders and homicides between 2015-2021, while 74 percent of all firearm-related deaths in Washington state between 2018-21 were suicide-related. According to Harborview’s Firearm Injury and Research Program, suicides are greater than homicides in total firearm deaths in every county except for Yakima.

HB 1240 will now be sent to Inslee’s desk for signing.

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