Washington House passes semi-automatic ‘assault weapons’ ban | Washington

(The Center Square) – The Washington House has passed a bill that if enacted would ban the sale or distribution of certain semi-automatic weapons and adds a new definition to state law of “assault weapons” that includes rifles, pistols, and shotguns.

Critics warn that the wide legal definition will include thousands of ordinary firearms and, under the grandfathering clause, put later descendants of current owners at legal risk should they eventually inherit the firearms.

Sponsored by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, at the behest of State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, HB 1240 cleared the state House 55-42 on March 8, just minutes from the legislative cutoff date for bills to advance from their original chamber.

Proponents argued that the ban will prevent mass shootings in public places and schools.

“We cannot hold and wait any longer,” Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island told colleagues on the House floor. “The time is now.”

Republican opponents of the bill offered more than a dozen amendments prior to its passage, all of which were rejected.

Among them was a provision that would require the new law to comply with the Article I, section 24 of the Washington Constitution, which statesThe 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.”

Speaking in favor of the amendment, Rep. Stephanie Barnard, R-Pasco, told colleagues that “if we don’t protect that right, then what’s to hold us back from infringing upon the others?”

Rep. Dan Griffrey, R-Allyn, took issue with some of the bill’s intent language that appears to correlate “hyper masculine” with mass shootings committed by “troubled young men.”

“What hyper masculinity is, is up to interpretation,” he said. “When we write a bill that is going to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of every Washingtonian, it’s important that we get the intent section right.”

Others predicted that the bill is likely to get overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently ruled against a New York State law requiring residents get a license to possess a firearm in or outside the home. In the 2022 Bruen decision, the majority opinion argued the law violated the right of citizens to keep and bear arms per the Second Amendment.

“The amount of momentum in the federal court system reviewing policy like this is undeniable,” Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, told colleagues. “It makes it almost certain that the first Federal court that reviews this controversial policy will overturn it. This makes this whole exercise a questionable one and in my opinion a waste of Washington taxpayer’s money while we go through a fruitless process almost certain to be overturned.”

An “assault weapon” as defined includes:

  • semiautomatic rifles with an overall length of less than 30 inches or have the capacity to accept a detachable magazine.
  • semiautomatic centerfire rifles with a fixed magazine capacity of more than 10 rounds;
  • certain types of semiautomatic shotguns that have one or more additional features listed in the bill;
  • certain types of semiautomatic pistols

Washington Gun Law President William Kirk stated in a YouTube video that the definition of “assault weapon” as written in the bill applies to thousands of different types of firearms.

He added that the implications are significant due to the grandfather clause contained in the bill. As written, residents who currently own firearms defined as “assault weapons” are legally allowed to keep them and will them to their children, who can also possess them if they “can establish such provenance” that the prior owner legally possessed them.

However, Kirk said “when your son or daughter’s time is up, they can’t transfer it to anyone else.” Under HB 1240, it is a gross misdemeanor for every firearm violation.

The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

This article First appeared in the center square

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