House Democrats push Washington closer to assault weapons ban

Their bill outlawing the manufacture and sale of certain guns passed the state House. No Republican voted for it.

OLYMPIA — Washington moved a step closer to outlawing the sale of assault weapons Wednesday.

A Democrat-sponsored bill banning the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of those weapons, defined broadly as semiautomatic pistols and semiautomatic rifles with detachable ammunition magazines, cleared the state House on a party-line 55-42 vote.

House Bill 1240 contains exceptions for manufacture and sale to law enforcement and the military. It does not bar the possession of assault weapons. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

This is the seventh straight year Democratic lawmakers sought such a ban, and the first time a version passed either legislative chamber.

Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, has been the sponsor each year. It’s because of the 2016 mass shooting in his district, in Mukilteo, where an armed young man killed three people and wounded a fourth before running out of bullets. The shooter used an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon that would be banned under the proposal.

“We have a crisis of gun violence in this country, and it is only escalating,” he said in a statement. “We need to continue to take real, tangible action to curb gun violence in our state. Getting this bill to the governor’s desk will be a major step forward.”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, first called for a ban in 2017 in the wake of the Mukilteo shooting.

“The devastation of mass shootings extends far beyond the casualties and injuries,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Mass shootings traumatize entire communities. We must stop selling these weapons of war in Washington.”

Republicans contend the measure infringes on an individual’s constitutional right to own firearms. They also argued that outlawing their sale will not lead a reduced level of gun violence and crime.

Eight states had adopted similar legislation banning these weapons. Multiple federal courts upheld these public safety laws as constitutional, according to Ferguson’s office.

This is the third significant gun bill passed this session by Democrats, who hold majorities in the House and Senate.

On Tuesday, the House passed legislation requiring a person complete a firearms safety training program before they can make a purchase. It also imposes a a 10-day waiting period that would start on the day the dealer submits a request to the Washington State Patrol for a background check of the customer.

Last week, the Senate approved a bill allowing people to sue gun makers and sellers if one of their products harms someone.