Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has sparked a tempest by hinting on his official Facebook page there may be another push during this year’s legislative session to pass a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and “high-capacity magazines.”
Ferguson, who has consistently supported gun control measures in the past, posted a link to a Jan. 3 Seattle Times editorial which calls for the ban. The Times Editorial Board has not been friendly to the Second Amendment over the years, or to gun owners who take the right to keep and bear arms seriously. The editorial quoted Ferguson, who seemed to acknowledge that such a ban would not really solve the problem of violent crime in which guns are used.
“I just don’t understand when people say, ‘well, that’s not going to really get at all the gun violence.’ Of course, it’s not,” Ferguson told the newspaper. “But it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel if we can’t even get bills like these across the finish line in Olympia.”
For Evergreen State gun owners, the “light at the end of the tunnel” Ferguson mentioned is a locomotive coming in their direction. Democrat Ferguson knows Washington law contains a definition of a “semiautomatic assault rifle”—a firearm that does not exist, except on paper—which he seeks to ban.
Here is the definition, found on Page 27 of the original I-1639 document:
“‘Semiautomatic assault rifle’ means 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.
“Semiautomatic assault rifle” does not include antique firearms, any firearm that has been made permanently inoperable, or any firearm that is manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action.”
Even Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich—following passage of the initiative thanks to a multi-million-dollar campaign that simply out-spent the grassroots opposition, courtesy of a handful of billionaires and wealthy elitists residing in about a dozen zip codes in and around Seattle—said such a firearm doesn’t exist.
There is more to it. That definition applies to every self-loading rifle ever manufactured, anywhere on Earth. It includes popular big game hunting rifles from Browning, Remington and Winchester, along with classic small game rifles such as the Ruger 10/22, Marlin Model 60, Remington Nylon 66 and others, which are owned by millions of citizens and used by young hunters and shooters to take small game and learn the basics of firearm safety. There are no exemptions in the language of the measure to prevent such firearms from being banned, and both Ferguson and the sponsors of I-1639 know it, gun rights activists have repeatedly stated.
Ferguson’s Facebook post is getting reaction.
One Montesano resident observed: “Quit trying to make criminals out of law-abiding citizens! Criminals will never follow these laws. All these laws do is make it harder for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves…”
A Seattle resident wrote, “Bob, why don’t you just move to Kalifornia, I think you would be very happy there.”
A Tacoman commented, “Can you tell me why you want to take away a woman’s right to protect herself? Or a disabled person? How quickly can the 80-year-old woman change the magazine after multiple men force themselves into her home? How quickly can the disabled person with a prosthetic arm change the magazine during a home invasion? Very sad that you want women to be unprotected, unarmed defenseless targets for criminals. Magazines do not kill people. Punish criminals and NOT law-abiding women who just want to protect themselves.”
One woman added, “How about you uphold both the Washington State Constitution and the US Constitution?? What part of “shall not be infringed” doesn’t make sense to you? This is a heart issue, not a gun issue. Your job is to deal with the prosecution of criminals, not micromanaging We, the People.”
In a 201-page report by the Washington State Mass Shootings Work Group released in 2018, Ferguson submitted a letter commending the group’s accomplishments, but added this criticism:
“I am extremely disappointed that the group failed to include common sense, evidence-based firearms safety reforms that would make our schools and communities safer.
“Despite my request that they do so, a majority of the Work Group declined to support inclusion of a recommendation that Washington law be changed to limit the sale, manufacture, and transfer of ammunition magazines that hold over 10 rounds.”
As Attorney General, Ferguson should know according to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, only a fraction of homicides nationally, including Washington, are committed with rifles of any kind, somewhere between 2 and 4 percent. In its 2020 report, the FBI lists six slayings known to have been committed with rifles, out of a total of 298 murders listed.
The data does not support any suggestion that banning so-called “assault weapons” would accomplish anything other than a symbolic victory for the gun prohibition lobby. Because of that, expect Evergreen State activists to continue their opposition to a ban.