Washington governor, AG unveil 3 gun safety proposals
Washington leaders are aiming to ban the sale of assault weapons in the state. Similar attempts have not gotten far in the past, but they say they now have the momentum to do it as they push for three gun safety measures next session.
On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a pair of gun safety bills they are jointly proposing for the upcoming legislative session — including a ban on semiautomatic rifles and a law establishing liability for the gun industry. Inslee further announced a third measure he is pursuing, which would create a permit program to purchase a gun.
"You need to get a license to drive a car in the state of Washington, you need to get a license to go fishing, it's time that you get a license to make sure that you have safety training to purchase a gun in the state of Washington, and it's high time that we pass a bill to make sure you get a permit before you purchase a firearm," Inslee said.
Inslee added that gun safety laws will not be the only tactic used in the upcoming year, and that state officials will also work to "provide mental health to our young people, we are going to attack the homelessness crisis, we are going to train more police officers so there are more officers on the streets to protect us."
But he argues that "too many guns, of the wrong kind" are in too many hands. The governor said that Washington loses more than 800 residents to gun violence each year.
Ferguson noted that this is the seventh year that he has pushed for an assault weapons ban. Inslee and Ferguson did not provide details on what firearms would classify as an assault weapon, but the AG's Office website states they are targeting "military style" guns.
The proposal to establish a level of liability for gun manufacturers and sellers is a new effort in Washington. Such lawsuits against manufacturers and sellers are difficult at the federal level, but Ferguson says that states can implement their own laws to create local legal liability.
"This is a bill that will ensure that firearms manufacturers and sellers face consequences, liability, when they are irresponsible," he said.
The proposal charges firearm industry members to establish and enforce controls on various aspects of gun sales — manufacturing, selling, distribution, and marketing.
"And if they don't, if those weapons get in the wrong hands, and the tragic outcomes that we are all too familiar with occur, on their watch, and as a result of their actions, then these lawsuits can be brought," Ferguson said.
Gun violence victims speak
Monday's press event included voices of those affected by recent gun violence in the state, such as Sofie Blazejova, a student at Seattle's Ingraham High School. A shooting at the school in November resulted in the death of one student, and put the school in lockdown.
“I thought I understood what happens during a school shooting, but I did not," Blazejova said. "I never fully understood how quietly you try to cry, how every part of your body is telling you to run, how you and your peers are cramped under the same table, and how many hours you wait to hug your parents and friends.”
KeAnna Rose Pickett, wife of D'Vonne Pickett Jr. who was shot in front of his business in Seattle's Central District, also spoke. She emphasized that her household is a gun-owning home, and that she and her late husband always stressed the importance of firearm responsibility. It is within that context that she is urging lawmakers to support the proposals.
"D'Vonne and I, we went to the gun range, we practice shooting guns, we believe in our Second Amendment right. And we believe that having the experience and education behind weapons is important, because then you have a responsibility, that you understand how powerful it is. With our children, we spent time with them talking about weapons and guns; they touched them themselves, to understand that it is not a video game, that these are real things that can hurt somebody.
"D'Vonne ... he spent a lot of time before he went and got his permit and license, studying the laws and what it means to be Black man able to carry a weapon, hoping it would protect him. He was just locking up, we just stopped by the store ... and this person sat out there for hours, waiting. I happened to be there. Those are sounds and images that don't escape you. I have three children. They are sad, they are angry, they miss their dad. It has torn our family apart. These incidents are not just a single incident. They go on for generations."