Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday in Seattle that he will propose a package of legislation to combat mass shootings in Washington state.
Gov. Jay Inslee, a longtime supporter of gun safety measures, is joining Ferguson for the first time to propose limits to magazine capacity and a ban on the sale of assault weapons.
Ferguson has been advocating for these changes since 2016.
In addition to renewing calls to ban the sale of these dangerous weapons and limits to magazine capacity, Ferguson is also proposing legislation to add background checks on ammunition sales after federal rules are changed, in addition to other safety measures to keep ammunition out of the hands of dangerous individuals, according to a news release from Ferguson.
“It took just 32 seconds for an individual armed with a 100-round double-drum magazine and an AR-15-style weapon to shoot 36 people before he was killed by law enforcement,” Ferguson said in the news release. “That same rifle and magazine are perfectly legal to purchase in Washington state. That makes no sense. “
“This is the time to take action on common sense measures that will save lives. We should be making it harder for those who want to inflict mass violence and destruction upon innocent people,” Inslee said in the news release. “By limiting magazine capacity and banning assault weapons, we can work toward a day where no one in Washington state loses a friend or family members to senseless gun violence.”
High-capacity magazine limits
In 32 seconds, an individual armed with a 100-round double-drum magazine and an AR-15-type weapon killed or injured 36 people in a Dayton, Ohio, nightclub on Aug. 3, 2019. The Dayton mass shooting occurred just one day after a mass shooting at an El Paso Wal-Mart, where a white nationalist armed with an AK-47-type rifle and multiple high-capacity magazines killed or injured 46 people, including children.
Despite restrictions in nine states, high-capacity magazines — including that same 100-round double-drum magazine — are legal to purchase in Washington state.
High-capacity magazines were used in two mass shootings in Washington in the last four years, in Mukilteo and Burlington.
Since 1980, according to the Violence Policy Center, high-capacity magazines have been involved in at least 74 mass shootings, resulting in 720 fatalities and 1,116 persons injured. An analysis of mass shootings from 2009 to 2017 revealed that 58 percent involved high-capacity magazines, resulting in twice as many fatalities and 1,400 percent more injuries per incident compared to those that did not involve high-capacity magazines.
Limiting magazine capacity forces shooters to reload, buying precious seconds for victims and law enforcement. A would-be mass shooter at Seattle Pacific University was prevented when a student tackled the gunman when he was reloading his shotgun. During Sandy Hook, 11 children were able to escape while the shooter was forced to reload. The Dayton shooter fired 41 rounds and would have had to reload even if he had a military magazine.
Multiple federal courts of appeals upheld laws limiting magazine capacity. The United States Supreme Court allowed those decisions to stand.
Ferguson and Inslee are proposing joint-request legislation to limit the capacity of magazines sold in Washington to 10-rounds. The bill makes an exception for law enforcement, military and recreational shooting ranges. It requires safe and secure storage for magazines grandfathered by possession on the effective date of the legislation.
Assault weapons sales
The bill’s definition to assault weapons is similar to the definition used by the seven other states that have banned the sale of assault weapons — semi-automatic weapons that contain at least one military-style feature. Those laws have survived legal challenge.
Compared to any other firearm, an assault weapon is seven times more likely to kill law enforcement, according to the Violence Policy Center. A study analyzing FBI data showed that 20 percent of the law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty from 1998 to 2001 were killed with assault weapons.
Assault Weapons are 11 times more likely to be used in a mass shooting than a handgun. When assault weapons or high-capacity magazines are used in a mass shooting, more than twice as many people are shot.
Ferguson is also proposing legislation to strengthen state rules regarding ammunition sales.
Washington state does not regulate ammunition sales the way many other states do. For example, unlike Washington state, Louisiana, Nevada, and Texas prohibit the knowing sale of ammunition to violent offenders. Fourteen states prohibit the possession of ammunition by individuals prohibited from owning firearms, but not Washington state.
Current law does not require background checks for ammunition, even though dangerous individuals prohibited from owning firearms sometimes evade controls intended to prevent them from acquiring firearms, or refuse to surrender firearms as the law requires.
Ferguson’s ammunition legislation:
• Prohibits violent felons and other individuals who cannot lawfully obtain firearms from purchasing or possessing ammunition
• Makes it illegal for firearms dealers to knowingly sell ammunition to violent felons and other individuals prohibited from owning firearms
• Prohibits dealers from knowingly selling ammunition to violent offenders and other individuals prohibited from owning firearms
• Requires ammunition sellers to obtain a state firearms license, which costs $125. This change will not impact current firearms dealers
• Requires background checks for all ammunition sales 30 days after the U.S. Department of Justice changes its rules and authorizes dealers to use the national instant criminal background check system, known as NICS, to initiate a check for a transfer of ammunition
A survey conducted by Fox News found that 80 percent of respondents supported laws requiring background checks on purchasers of ammunition.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Amy Walen, D-Kirkland.
“Ammunition safety is a critical component of firearm safety that we can’t forget about,” said Rep. Walen. “We can’t keep our communities safe if dangerous individuals who are prohibited from owning guns can still keep ammunition. It’s past time for Washington to catch up with states like Idaho, Louisiana, and Texas and prevent dangerous individuals from purchasing ammunition.”