Senate committee passes bump stock bill after well-attended hearing on gun measures

By Rachel La Corte

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — A couple who survived last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas were among those who asked a Senate panel to pass a slate of bills that include a measure to prohibit so-called bump stocks, trigger modification devices designed to accelerate a firearm’s rate of fire.

Opponents to the measures told lawmakers on the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Monday that law-abiding gun owners will be punished by the bills.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee passed Senate Bill 5992 out of committee Tuesday. The bump stock bill sponsored by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, a Democrat from Sequim, now goes to the Rules Committee.

Monday’s two-hour hearing drew nearly 1,000 people, leading security to set up additional overflow committee rooms for a mix of people wearing orange shirts or scarves and stickers reading “Gun Responsibility Now!” and others wearing shirts that read “NRA Stand and Fight.”

Van de Wege noted that he’s a lifetime member of the NRA and a defender of the 2nd Amendment, but said “this is something that shouldn’t be allowed.”

“After the tragedy in Las Vegas, now is the time to take action,” said Van De Wege, who represents District 24, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

The Oct. 1 attack in Las Vegas was the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. Using a bump stock device, Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more while firing from the Mandalay Bay Resort’s 32nd floor before killing himself as police stormed the suite.

SB 5992 would prohibit the manufacture, sale, purchase or possession of trigger modification devices, which are defined in the bill as any part or combination of parts designed or intended to accelerate the rate of fire of a firearm.

Emily Cantrell and Kyle Helms of Seattle, who testified in support of the bill, told lawmakers how they were dancing one moment at the Vegas festival before, Cantrell said, “the music went silent and the screaming began.”

“We were sitting ducks with nowhere to go,” she said.

Ann-Marie Parsons of Bainbridge Island cried as she talked about her daughter, Carrie Parsons, who was killed during the shooting. She told lawmakers that if a similar gun was in the committee room she was testifying in “none of us could run fast enough” at which point someone in the crowd yelled “time!” and was removed by security.

Dave Westhaver, a gun rights proponent from Bellevue, said the previous testimony about the Las Vegas shooting was powerful, and he recounted for the panel a fatal shooting he saw in Bremerton when he was 15. But he told lawmakers that doesn’t change his opposition to the proposed measures.

“The criminals aren’t going to be penalized by these bills; they’re going to make criminals out of law-abiding gun owners,” he said. “If you really want to make an impact on firearm safety, why don’t you start addressing the mental health issues?”

Several other states are considering bump stock bans, including Connecticut and Rhode Island, and on Monday, New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed such a ban into law after it was passed by the Democratic Legislature.

Other measures the committee heard Monday were measures that would ban most magazines that hold more than 10 rounds; require enhanced background checks for the purchase of an assault weapon; create a duty for the safe storage of firearms and creating a civil liability for violations of that duty that result in injury, death or committing of a crime; and repealing state laws that preempt local governments’ ability to regulate firearms.

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