Washington Democrats Pass Rifle Ban Bill, 10-Day Gun Buy Wait

Washington State House Democrats have used the cover of two successive night votes to pass legislation banning the future sale of so-called “assault weapons” and a requirement that all gun buyers show proof of firearms safety training within the past five years, and endure a 10-day waiting period.

Evergreen State gun owners are furious and will focus their attention on the state Senate, where they hope to stop both measures.

If the gun ban passes, it may be short-lived depending upon federal court action in California and Maryland, where such bans are being challenged by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and Firearms Policy Coalition and, specifically in Maryland, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA).

According to the Seattle Times, Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee was in the House chamber, watching the vote on House Bill 1240, which turned out 55-42, with some Democrats crossing the aisle to vote with Republicans against the measure. The vote occurred “shortly before 8:30 p.m.,” the Times report noted. Times readers are reacting predictably, with many opposed to the ban and others supporting it.

Inslee, an anti-gunner since his time in Congress, reportedly shook hands with members of the Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a billionaire-backed gun prohibition lobbying group that has been pressing for the ban for several years.

“This is a very important vote. It is something that I’ve believed in since 1994 when I voted to make this federal law,” Inslee said.

He reportedly stated passage of the legislation signaled the “NRA’s lock on Washington” had been broken by the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

The measure bans the future sale, manufacture and transfer of so-called “assault weapons,” which are actually modern semiautomatic sport/utility rifles, and the most popular rifle in America today, gun rights activists contend.

The vote on semi-auto rifles came one day after House Democrats also pushed through an amended version of Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1143, also on an after-dark vote. A provision in the original bill to require a permit-to-purchase was removed Tuesday night, but remaining are the waiting period and a mandate to show proof of firearm safety training within the previous five years.

The training requirement could face a legal hurdle, as gun rights activists contend it amounts to an “impairment” prohibited by the state constitution, which says in part, “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired.” They also argue it is an “infringement,” running afoul of the Second Amendment, which was incorporated to the states under the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in McDonald v. the City of Chicago, a SAF case.

It is the first time legislation banning semi-auto rifles has gotten past one chamber of the Legislature. The bill is supported not only by Inslee but also by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, also a Democrat.

KCPQ News, the Seattle-based Fox News affiliate, quoted HB 1143 sponsor Seattle Democrat Rep. Liz Berry. She claimed the measure “will save lives,” citing unidentified research that suggests waiting periods “reduce gun violence.”

“Research shows that delaying a person in crisis from obtaining a firearm can be the difference between life and death,” she reportedly stated. “And over half of suicides in the U.S. are done by firearms. That’s why this cooling-off period is so important.”

Meanwhile, the Seattle Times noted that if HB 1240 becomes law, it will make Washington the ninth state to ban semi-auto rifles. The bill specifically identifies more than 50 firearms that would be banned from future sale in the state. The measure would take effect immediately.

The fact that the bill was passed well into the evening has ignited a spirited discussion on the Washington 2023 Legislative Action Group’s Facebook page. This group has more than 12,000 members.

Passage by the House reinforces the notion that Democrats are “the party of gun prohibition.” They used to be known as the “party of gun control,” but their activities in several states has firmly taken the party agenda to a higher level.

Republican State Rep. Jim Walsh of Aberdeen is a leading opponent of these gun control measures, which local media persist in calling “gun reform” bills. He predicted legal challenges, which is almost guaranteed, considering that Washington State is home to both SAF and CCRKBA.

Walsh is not the only critic. As noted by the Times, Rep. Joel McEntire of Cathlamet ripped the legislation for focusing on guns rather than criminals.

“We don’t have a problem with rifles,” he stated. “We have a problem with moral decay.”

Rep. Travis Couture of Allyn countered one of the favorite arguments of the gun prohibitionists that semi-auto rifles are “weapons of war.” He argued they are not weapons of war, and reminded his House colleagues that these semi-auto rifles are “the most popular firearms in our society.” Some estimates place the number of such rifles in private ownership above 24 million, and that could include tens of thousands in the Evergreen State.

Days ago, a bill that would have repealed state preemption died in committee, while the state Senate passed legislation—Senate Bill 5078—that will open the door to lawsuits against the firearms industry. If this becomes law, it will almost certainly be challenged in federal court on the grounds it violates the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, signed by former President George W. Bush. SB 5078 is now in the House for consideration.