Gun owners in Washington State are breathing a little sigh of relief today after a key piece of gun control legislation failed to receive a vote on the Senate floor before a legislative deadline on Wednesday, killing the bill for the remainder of this year’s session.
SB 5078 would originally have banned all ammunition magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds, but the original language was substituted in favor of a ban on magazines holding more than 17 rounds in an attempt to garner more support. As NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action reports:
These so called “high capacity” magazines are, in fact, standard equipment for commonly-owned firearms that many Americans legally and effectively use for an entire range of legitimate purposes, such as self-defense or competition. Those who own non-compliant magazines prior to the ban are only allowed to possess them on their own property and in other limited instances, such as at licensed shooting ranges or while hunting. Prohibited magazines have to be transported unloaded and locked separately from firearms, and stored at home locked, making them unavailable for self-defense. Any violation of this measure is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Wednesday was the deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin, and the state Senate failed to bring up SB 5078 before the end of Wednesday’s session. The state House, meanwhile, also failed to advance HB 1283, a measure that could have criminalized the open carry of firearms if they were carried “in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons.”
The bill never defined what those circumstances would be, leaving the possibility that if a single person complained that they were “alarmed” at the sight of an openly carried firearm, the gun carrier could face felony charges and a lifetime prohibition on their right to keep and bear arms.
There’s one gun control bill that’s still on the table in Washington State. SB 5038 would ban the open carrying of firearms at the state Capitol complex (including the grounds outside) in Olympia, as well as making it a crime to open carry at or near any permitted demonstration.
“Permitted demonstration” means either: (A) A gathering for 29 which a permit has been issued by a federal agency, state agency, or local government; or (B) a gathering of 15 or more people who are assembled for a single event at a public place, including a march, rally, vigil, sit-in, or picketing, which has been declared as permitted by the chief executive, sheriff, or chief of police of a local government in which the gathering occurs.
In a bizarre twist, the gun control bill would still allow for open carry at unpermitted demonstrations, like the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone set up in Seattle last year. While there’ve been no incidents involving gun owners at permitted political protests in Washington, the CHAZ was the site of several shootings last summer, as the New York Times reported in July of 2020.
The latest shooting, at about 3 a.m. on Monday, has accelerated tensions over what happens next in the protest area, known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, or CHOP.
One victim, age 16, arrived at Harborview Medical Center at 3:30 a.m. from the CHOP area, transported there by Seattle Fire Department medics, and died in the hospital. The other victim, 14, was taken to the hospital in a private vehicle and remained in critical condition in intensive care, said a spokeswoman for Harborview.
The violence, with a total of six people shot in an area previously known as a party corner of Seattle, noted for its bars, restaurants and colorful student-infused street life, has raised new questions over what happens next.
What happened next was that anti-gun lawmakers in Washington decided to go after legal gun owners instead of focusing their efforts on violent criminals. It’s great news that two of their worst proposals failed to cross over and are dead for the session, but SB 5038 still poses a threat to the Second (and First) Amendment rights of Washingtonians.
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