Washington Second Amendment activists are furious over new gun control legislation proposed by Democrat State Attorney General Bob Ferguson that would include a ban on the sale of so-called “assault weapons,” limits on magazine capacity and restrictions on ammunition purchases.
Ferguson and Gov. Jay Inslee will jointly present their proposals to the Legislature.
Members of the loosely-knit Gun Rights Coalition have been sounding off on their Facebook page in the aftermath of Ferguson’s announcement. He was flanked by representatives of the billionaire-backed and Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Grandmothers Against Gun Violence and Washington Ceasefire. There were also several anti-gun-rights Democrat legislators at the presser.
Except for the new ammunition proposals, everything Ferguson wants has previously been sought.
The new gun control campaign will likely give reason to gun owners to mark Friday, Jan. 17 on their calendars when a Gun Rights Rally is scheduled at the Capitol Campus. That event starts at 8:30 a.m.
According to a Ferguson press release, “For the fourth consecutive session, Ferguson is proposing legislation to ban the sale of assault weapons. For the first time, Gov. Inslee will jointly request the legislation. The bill makes an exception for law enforcement, military personnel and recreational shooting ranges. The allows for the possession of grandfathered weapons purchased before the effective date of the legislation.
“The bill’s definition to assault weapons is similar to the definition used by the seven other states that have banned the sale of assault weapons — semi-automatic weapons that contain at least one military-style feature.”
However, there may already be a problem, because “semiautomatic assault weapons” are already defined by statute as contained in the language of Initiative 1639, passed in 2018. Under that definition—for a firearm that doesn’t really exist, according to Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich—a semiautomatic assault rifle is “any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”
That language literally applies to any semi-auto rifle ever manufactured anywhere.
But there is another problem, one having to do with credibility. In Washington state, rifles of any kind are involved in a fraction of the homicides committed in any given year, according to the annual FBI Uniform Crime Report. Last year, for example, only two slayings were committed with rifles, the FBI data says. The previous year, in 2017, only one murder was determined to have involved a rifle of any kind. This is consistent with the national homicide pattern.
The gun prohibition lobby has pushed for a ban on modern sporting rifles and original capacity magazines for several years. They also want more restrictions on concealed carry, which is not part of the Ferguson package. Washington currently has more than 645,000 active concealed pistol licenses, the highest number of any state in the West except for Utah, and a remarkable number for a state that has been dominated by liberal voters in the King, Pierce and Snohomish county area of the state’s Puget Sound Basin.
In Washington state, rifles of any kind are involved in a fraction of the homicides committed in any given year, according to the annual FBI Uniform Crime Report
Under the proposals for ammunition regulation, background checks would be required for anyone buying ammunition at retail. According to Ferguson’s release, his proposal:
• Prohibits violent felons and other individuals who cannot lawfully obtain firearms from purchasing or possessing ammunition
• Makes it illegal for firearms dealers to knowingly sell ammunition to violent felons and other individuals prohibited from owning firearms
• Prohibits dealers from knowingly selling ammunition to violent offenders and other individuals prohibited from owning firearms
• Requires ammunition sellers to obtain a state firearms license, which costs $125. This change will not impact current firearms dealers
• Requires background checks for all ammunition sales 30 days after the U.S. Department of Justice changes its rules and authorizes dealers to use the national instant criminal background check system, known as NICS, to initiate a check for a transfer of ammunition
Ferguson is considered by activists to be an ardent anti-gunner. In 2018, he almost immediately endorsed gun control Initiative 1639, which was considered unusual for a state official by many observers at the time. His biggest claim to fame is having filed dozens of lawsuits against the Trump administration over various issues including immigration policies.
Gun prohibitionists have been feverishly pushing their control agenda since 2014 when they successfully passed Initiative 594, which was a so-called “universal background check” measure. It was sold to the public as a prevention measure to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
However, in 2016, a full 18 months after the measure took effect, a triple homicide in Mukilteo at a teen party was committed by a 19-year-old who legally purchased a semi-auto AR-15-type rifle, passing a background check in the process.
When Democrat State Sen. Strom Peterson commented about the Mukilteo shooting, he didn’t mention that it happened despite I-594 already being in place, and the gunman having passed the required background check. Instead, he wants to “prevent future shooters from obtaining weapons of war.”
Ferguson also referred to another shooting three months after Mukilteo, at the Cascade Mall in Burlington. In that case the now-deceased gunman had taken a .22-caliber rifle form his step-father’s home without permission—thereby avoiding a background check—to commit the crime.
Historically, Washington State gun control efforts have been “abject failures,” according to gun rights activists. To underscore that, a look at Seattle’s recent crime history helps.
In 2015, the Seattle City Council hastily adopted a “gun violence tax” on the sale of firearms and ammunition as an effort to combat so-called “gun violence.” In 2016, the first full year of the tax, there were 18 homicides reported in the city. In 2017, Seattle logged 28 murders, according to Seattle Police Department data. Last year, the city logged 32 homicides, police data says. Instead of fewer slayings, the city has nearly doubled its body count.
For the entire state of Washington, the number of slayings has gone up since 2015, the year of full effect of I-594. In 2015, there were 209 total murders of which 141 involved firearms. The following year (2016), Washington’s murders took a dip down to 195 total with 127 involving guns.
However, in 2017, the numbers spiked back up with 228 total slayings including 134 committed with firearms and last year, the state recorded 232 murders including 138 involving firearms, according to data from the annual FBI Uniform Crime Reports.