If Attorney General Bob Ferguson has his way, many of the guns that citizens own will soon be illegal to purchase in the State of Washington. Ferguson proposed legislation last week that, if passed, would ban the sale of all “assault rifles,” and semi-automatic weapons with “military-style features,” terms that he claims have a “similar” definition to those used in the New York and Connecticut laws.
“Military-style weapons are designed for killing people,” Ferguson stated back in September when first announcing the bills. “These weapons have no place in civilian use.”
Sales of the following would also be banned:
- semi-automatic rifles with a detachable magazine and pistol grip
- semi-automatic pistols with a fixed magazine that can take more than ten rounds of ammunition
- rifles with a thumbhole stock such as this bolt action 30-06 hunting rifle
- rifles with a folding stock, telescoping (also called adjustable) stock, a second handgrip, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor or muzzle compensator
- flare launchers and grenade launchers
- shotguns with a pistol grip and detachable magazine or revolving cylinder
- any magazine that holds more than ten rounds
Just in case his ban doesn’t pass the legislature, Ferguson has also proposed a backup plan—registration. An adult over the age of 21 could apply for a license to purchase one of those weapons but would need to complete a gun safety class, pay a licensing fee, be subject to an in-depth background check, wait ten days, and have no felonies on their record—even non-violent ones.
The bills are sponsored primarily by Seattle-based Democrats, and Ferguson claims that the ban is “the right policy for Washington,” even though, according to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, Washington was in the top 10 states for pure volume of gun sales in 2016. Over 340,000 background checks to purchase a firearm were run between January 1 and May 31.
While the anti-gun lobby is entrenched in the Seattle-Tacoma area, Ferguson faces an uphill battle pushing his weapons ban. Washington boasts a highly active pro-Second Amendment demographic; in 2014 only a few weeks after the passing of the universal background check initiative, over 2500 people gathered on the Capitol grounds in Olympia to protest. Many of them openly bought and sold firearms, effectively turning the rally into an impromptu gun show in blatant defiance of the law, and in plain sight of Washington State Police. Two years after the law passed, while first-time buyers are often following the background check requirement, private sales still exist in very high numbers. Even concealed weapons permits are up 15 percent—over half a million Washington residents have one—and many citizens carry with or without a permit.
Only a few days after Ferguson’s announcement, armed citizens gathered at the Capitol in an annual “Rally for Your Rights,” an event sponsored by a Second Amendment group named Gun Rights Coalition. The primary purpose of the rally, as organizer Rick Halle told Liberty Nation, “is to help people learn how to contact their representatives and to get [citizens] into their offices…the goal is to let [citizens] know what the issues are so they are better prepared to discuss them.”
Gun Rights Coalition is made up of representatives from gun rights groups, patriot groups, and other community leaders from across the state. Halle said the coalition hopes to “bring all of the groups together so that we are more effective,” and that GRC offers groups a way to work together while retaining their independence. This year several pro-gun lawmakers spoke at the rally—one of them calling for a repeal of Washington’s background check initiative.
Halle pointed out that Ferguson’s bills “encourage violations of the state constitution,” and that the “only acceptable action for [Ferguson] now would be to step down” from the position.
Ferguson’s press release on the bill says “This legislation will save lives.” When asked what would happen if the ban went through, Halle said simply, “It will likely be open defiance.”