Thousands show up at hearing on proposed state gun laws

By Sean Harding

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

OLYMPIA — More than 2,000 people signed into the Senate Law and Justice Committee for hearings on 3-D printed guns, high-capacity magazines, domestic violence, as well as proposed training requirements for legally obtaining a pistol.

Outside of the Legislative Building, a silver Toyota blaring music and displaying a sign bearing words from the Second Amendment circled the World War I memorial for most of the day Monday.

Most of the people who testified, including state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, spoke for or against Senate Bill 5062, which prohibits possessing, manufacturing or distributing ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.

Similar legislation was unsuccessfully introduced into the state legislature last year.

“Societies around the world have been seeking ways to eliminate violence,” said Daniel Mitchell, a licensed firearms dealer from Vancouver, Wash.

“If we’ve learned one thing during that time, it’s that it’s impossible to legislate evil intent.”

Among the speakers was a woman who survived the October 2017 Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire, killing 58 and leaving over 850 injured.

“The people served best by high-capacity magazines are mass shooters,” said Emily Cantrell.

“The only reason I’m able to sit here today is the mass shooter who tried to kill me and 22,000 other concertgoers had to stop to reload.”

There was also an attempt to define what exactly qualifies a magazine as “high capacity.”

“It’s important, I think, to clarify that these are standard capacity magazines that come with typical semi-automatic handguns that people use to defend themselves on a day-to-day basis,” said Tom Kwiesciak, on behalf of the National Rifle Association.

“They make up more than half the magazines owned in the United States.”

Said Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Cornell in response: “If indeed that is true, it’s time that we change our standards to protect Washingtonians.”

Senate Bill 5061, covering 3-D printed and other “ghost guns,” was introduced by seven Democratic Senators at the request of Ferguson. A companion bill was introduced in the House by 17 state representatives.

The legislation would make it a Class C felony to knowingly manufacture, assemble, or facilitate any so-called “ghost gun.” Discharging or using a ghost gun in the commission of a felony would be a Class A felony.

3-D printers create physical objects from “blueprints” stored in computer files.

Those files can be emailed to anyone, including children and convicted criminals who have forfeited their right to a firearm, enabling them to create lethal devices without a background check ever taking place.

“One can’t wait for a tragedy to happen,” Ferguson said.

Added Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, chairwoman of the Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee in a telephone interview: “If that’s allowed to happen, it circumvents every piece of legislation we have drafted to address gun violence in Washington state.”

Many of those laws were “overwhelmingly” passed by voters, she said.

Ferguson expressed a similar sentiment, saying it is part of his job to make communities as safe as possible.

While existing firearm laws cover current firearm technology, they don’t address 3-D printed guns, which were not of concern when the laws were made.

Firearm owners and those seeking legislation at reducing gun-related violence will have a number of other bills to track during this legislative session.

One Republican lawmaker introduced legislation aimed at protecting law-abiding gun owners as well as privacy.

Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, introduced two bills addressing what he views as the two most problematic issues in Initiative 1639, the firearms initiative passed by voters last November which also requires background checks and raises the minimum age to 21 for purchasing semi-automatic rifles.

Walsh said he is concerned with the new law’s disclosure of private health care information to courts and state agencies; and penalties for firearm owners if a gun is stolen and used for a crime.

While Walsh doesn’t seek a full repeal of the initiative, he said he hopes that he can improve parts of it.

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This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.

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