The Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a billionaire-backed gun prohibition lobbying group responsible for two multi-million-dollar gun control initiative efforts, has announced its legislative agenda for 2021 in Washington state, targeting magazine capacity and open carry.
There is no small irony in the fact that homicides in their headquarters city have doubled this year over 2019, and that murders involving firearms statewide haven’t declined but are essentially holding steady.
According to the Alliance, they will be working on these issues starting in January:
Protect Progress and Continue Momentum: The financial, social, and political realities of COVID-19 are such that protecting the progress we have already made is crucial to the future of our success and is our central focus in the 2021 legislative session. Now more than ever, it is essential that we continue to lead the country by strengthening and protecting our effective gun safety laws. This includes closing loopholes and aligning victim protection processes and continuing progress on the first-in-the-nation statewide Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention and the centralization of our background check system.
Keep Communities Safe: Washington’s background check system helps ensure firearms do not make it into dangerous hands. However, we do not currently address access to the high-capacity magazines that make semi-automatic weapons extraordinarily deadly. We should keep our communities safe by taking the necessary steps to require background checks on all magazine purchases and prohibit magazines that can carry more than 10 rounds.
Reject Intimidation by Firearm: The open carrying of firearms has no place in any politically charged or contentious environment and produces a chilling effect on First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. The presence of firearms during political rallies, demonstrations, and protests only serves to make a situation more dangerous and a disaster more likely as we have seen in incidents like Kenosha, WI. Open carry enables those who wish to intimidate others in a public space to do so with relative impunity. We must reduce the risk that political violence by firearm becomes reality here in Washington State by placing commonsense limits on the open carry of firearms.
Address Inequity and Biased Policing: Washington has an opportunity to once again set an example for the rest of the nation by passing legislation to hold police and law enforcement accountable and address inequity in the criminal justice system. We should confront every component of the criminal justice system that has a disproportionate impact on black and brown communities, including the ways in which firearms intersect with the criminal justice system’s policies and practices here in Washington State.
Grassroots gun rights activists from Pullman to Port Angeles contend the so-called “Gun Safety” laws touted by the group haven’t improved safety at all, because they are gun control in disguise. Criminals ignore such laws.
They will oppose requiring background checks for magazine purchases, which amounts to de facto registration of a non-firearm, and the proposed ban on original capacity magazines. A federal appeals court panel in San Francisco, ruled earlier this year on such a ban in California, declaring it to be unconstitutional. California and Washington are both in the Ninth Circuit.
As for open carry, Washington is and has always been an open carry state. The right to bear arms in defense of one’s self and the state is enshrined in Article 1, Section 24 of the state constitution. Further, in a case known as State v. Gregory Elijah Casad, an unpublished state Court of Appeals ruling protects the open carry of firearms, stating, “We note that, in connection with this case, several individuals have commented that they would find it strange, maybe shocking, to see a man carrying a gun down the street in broad daylight. Casad’s appellate counsel conceded that she would personally react with shock, but she emphasized that an individual’s lack of comfort with firearms does not equate to reasonable alarm. We agree. It is not unlawful for a person to responsibly walk down the street with a visible firearm, even if this action would shock some people.”
A reading of the state constitution might even protect the practice: “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”
Evergreen State gun owners have a battle looming. It will take energy, money and the willingness to show up in Olympia, attend legislative hearings, be in contact with their state lawmakers and make their voices heard.