Washington State gun owners got some good news Wednesday evening, as a legislative deadline came and went with several pieces of gun control legislation failing to cross out of their house of origin. Two different magazines bans were defeated; a House bill that would have banned the possession of magazines over 15-rounds and a Senate version that capped ammunition magazines to 10-rounds.
The House and Senate also had competing versions of legislation that would have mandated more state-approved firearms training for concealed carry holders, but both bills failed to cross over as well.
These were big priorities for both Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and its a credit to the gun owners in Washington State that these proposals failed in the legislature. Unfortunately, as NRA’s Institute for Legislative action reports, there are still several bad bills that did cross over.
Senate Bill 5434 passed by a 27-20 vote. It increases prohibited areas where law-abiding citizens cannot possess firearms, including CPL holders carrying for self-defense. The bill extended “gun-free zones” to public parks, libraries, and child care centers before being amended to only apply to child care centers. In addition to leaving law-abiding citizens defenseless against criminals who ignore arbitrary boundaries, the bill requires child care centers to publicly indicate they are “gun-free zones” by posting signs outside the facilities.
Senate Bill 6288 passed by a 25-23 vote. It creates an Office of Firearm Violence Prevention within the executive branch of state government. Governor Jay Inslee and his administration have already made it clear where they stand on Second Amendment issues—they routinely sponsor and support gun ban legislation and initiatives designed to disarm law-abiding citizens. This office would be nothing more than a tax-payer funded lobby group with the sole purpose of eroding self-defense rights in Washington.
House Bill 1010 passed by a 56-42 vote. It allows the Washington State Patrol to waste taxpayer dollars destroying confiscated firearms rather than sell them to raise funds.
House Bill 2305 passed by a 55-42 vote. It imposes a mandatory firearm prohibition for respondents of a Vulnerable Adult Protective Order. This order, which removes someone’s Second Amendment rights for up to 5 years, requires no criminal convictions or even charges. Due process limits restrictions on constitutional rights to only serious convictions and adjudications that provide procedural protections to the accused, which results in more reliable proceedings. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms should not be treated as a second-class right and should only be restricted when sufficient protections are in place.
House Bill 2622 passed by a 56-42 vote. It modifies Washington’s existing firearm surrender provisions for individuals subject to a court order. This bill compels a respondent to appear and provide proof on how and to what extent they complied with the surrender order. This is a serious encroachment on the right against compelled self-incrimination in any criminal, civil, or other government proceedings. Failure to appear results in the individual being in contempt of court, thereby putting the individual in a no-win situation.
House Bill 2623 passed by a 56-41 vote. It prohibits an individual from possessing firearms if they are convicted of the misdemeanor crimes of unlawful aiming or discharge of a firearm. This poorly conceived legislation even applies to airguns and slingshots, and has no exceptions for an individual aiming or discharging a firearm for self-defense purposes in location that would have otherwise not be authorized.
House Bill 2467 passed by a vote of 66-32. HB 2467 directs Washington State Patrol to create a centralized state system for all firearm transfers to allow firearm dealers to submit information electronically and receive feedback instantaneously. This bill was introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators who have recognized that background checks in Washington have imposed excessive delays on gun owners. Background checks for handgun transfers are done in an archaic manner by mail to local law enforcement, who are tasked with manually checking databases. CPL holders previously were able to avoid the archaic check for handguns and instead were allowed to go through the federal NICS as a courtesy, which provided instant feedback. That exemption ceased in July, 2019. The enactment of I-1639 also added transfers of semi-automatic rifles to this system, with the addition of an $18 fee. Though this archaic background check has a ten day waiting period to allow for completion, these factors, along with I-594 requiring background checks on all transfers, has resulted in ever increasing strain on this system, creating delays that drag out up to 30 days. Unfortunately, there will be a fee attached to the background check, which has been capped at $18 per transaction.
It was just a couple of months ago that Gov. Inslee and AG Ferguson held a joint press conference calling for the passage of a magazine and “assault weapon” ban, and gun control advocates felt pretty good about the chances of the ban in the Democrat-controlled legislature at the time.
Some of the proposals have failed in the past and the AG admits it may be a challenge to get some to the governor’s desk, but he is hopeful, as are the lawmakers putting their names on the legislation.
“I think the time is now, I think we’re all cautiously optimistic,” Kuderer said. “We have new legislators, we have new leadership.”
Rep. Valdez echoed Kuderer’s sentiment, pointing to the leadership change with Rep. Laurie Jinkins, a strong supporter of gun safety reforms, who is taking over as Speaker of the House in 2020.
The governor’s biggest priorities won’t become law this year, but Washington State gun owners still need to keep in contact with their lawmakers to urge them to defeat the bills that did cross over. The state legislature will adjourn its session on March 12th, and there’s still time for the gun control bills highlighted above to get to Gov. Inslee’s desk.