Democrats propose assault weapon ban, gun purchase permit

Rep. Mike Chapman expects passage of some version into law

TUKWILA — Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson have announced legislative proposals that would prohibit assault weapons, require a permit to purchase a gun and make gun sellers potentially liable for negligent sales in the state. 

Inslee and Ferguson, along with gun-violence survivors and Democratic lawmakers, at a news conference in Tukwila late Monday pushed for aggressive action to build on recently passed Washington laws that have expanded background checks, required safe storage and banned the sale of high-capacity magazines, The Seattle Times reported.

“Now, other nations have difficulties in mental health. Other nations have people who get into arguments. But we have this scourge of gun violence because of the wrong kinds of guns in the wrong hands,” Inslee said.

KeAnna Rose Pickett, whose husband, D’Vonne Pickett Jr., was fatally shot outside their business in Seattle’s Central District, urged lawmakers to “find some solutions around mental health and gun safety.”

She said she and her husband were Second Amendment supporters who went to the gun range and spoke about gun safety with their children.

State Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, said lawmakers owe the public real action on gun violence.

Ferguson’s assault-weapon ban effort has failed six times in the Legislature. But he said he’s optimistic it can pass in 2023, citing polling and the recent elections, which favored candidates who support additional efforts to reduce gun violence.

He also said several states have already banned the sale of assault rifles, and the bills have been upheld as constitutional in the courts.

Mike Chapman, a Port Angeles Democrat, told the Peninsula Daily News on Tuesday: “They definitely need to be looked at and introduced. You never know how these things will move through the process. Maybe one body passes one form and then the other passes something else, but the odds are that something passes this session.”

“The ban on assault weapons is probably going to pass, but the licensing one needs work,” Chapman said.

“I think some form of assault weapon ban passes, but never a complete ban.

“Nobody wants to take away your rifle or your pistol,” said Chapman, who, prior to holding elective office, served as a local law enforcement officer and U.S. Customs Inspector.

“I’ve been in law enforcement and, I’m sorry, being able to fire off 30 rounds in 30 seconds is not a hunting rifle,” he said.

Chapman represents Legislative District 24, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties as well as part of Grays Harbor County. The other two who represent the district — Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend, and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

Assault weapon is an inexact term describing a group of high-powered guns or semi-automatic long rifles, like an AR-15, that can fire 30 rounds quickly without reloading. AR-15s have been used in many of the country’s mass shootings.

Inslee said the proposed gun-licensing law would include a safety training requirement. It would only apply to future gun sales.

Ferguson said the gunmaker liability proposal would allow people whose family members are killed with firearms to sue if a manufacturer or seller “is irresponsible in how they handle, store or sell those weapons.”

The proposal also would allow his office to file lawsuits under the state’s consumer-protection act.

The latest gun measures will face opposition from Republicans and gun-rights advocates, as well as lawsuits if approved and signed into law.

The 2023 Washington legislative session starts Jan. 9.

Oregon voters in the November election approved a sweeping gun-control initiative that also includes a gun-permitting system. But the measure was challenged with a lawsuit and temporarily paused by a judge last week until questions about its constitutionality can be decided.

Dave Workman, a spokesperson for the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, questioned the proposals’ constitutionality.

“I don’t think there is any other right protected by the Constitution that you need to get permission from the police department before you can exercise that right,” he said.

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