Gov. Jay Inslee signed the new assault weapon ban and two other gun control bills into law. Washington residents, who had been rushing to buy up rifles before the ban became law of the land, are officially out of time, as the new prohibition takes effect immediately. Licensed dealers have 90 days to sell their so-called assault weapons outside the Evergreen State. Inslee and his fellow Democrats are proud of their bold action “against gun violence,” but can it stand in the face of the legal challenges sure to come?
Assault Weapon Ban – And Then Some!
The assault weapon ban was but one of three gun control measures signed into law on Tuesday, April 25, yet it garnered the most media attention. That certainly doesn’t mean the other two are trivial. One will require safety training and a ten-day waiting period before residents can legally buy or transfer firearms. That alone would have been enough to spark outrage among Second Amendment advocates.
The other — the Firearms Industry Responsibility & Gun Violence Victims’ Access to Justice Act — “ensures that firearms manufacturers and sellers will face liability” should their products end up in the hands of violent criminals, according to a statement by the Washington attorney general’s office. “This policy will ensure that the gun industry is treated like every other industry and faces real consequences for irresponsible conduct,” AG Bob Ferguson said.
Of course, the attorney general cleverly twists words to craft a narrative that isn’t quite what it seems, as most politicians are wont to do. No industry – outside of Big Pharma, of course – actually enjoys the legal immunity Ferguson and others parroting the same line attribute to gunmakers. Like any other manufacturer, Glock and Winchester can expect lawsuits should their products malfunction and cause death or injury – but are they responsible for the criminal misuse of others? Can Macmillan be sued if a student beats another to death in class with a textbook? Would Craftsman face liability if someone were stabbed with a screwdriver bearing the brand’s name? Again, this is a law that would have hogged headlines for days were it not for the assault weapon ban.
Assault Weapon Ban – But Not Entirely?
According to the text of the bill, this law goes into effect immediately. So what does that mean for Washington residents? The state now prohibits the manufacture, import, or sale of so-called assault weapons – a category that includes many semi-automatic rifles, often called sporting rifles by those not in the gun control business – to anyone other than law enforcement or the military. Licensed dealers will have 90 days to sell off any weapons they acquired before Jan. 1, but only to out-of-state customers.
The guns themselves aren’t now illegal, as anyone already in possession of such weapons may keep them. However, the only way to get rid of them legally now is to transfer them to law enforcement, send them out of state, or pass them along as family heirlooms.
This law makes Washington the tenth state to enact a ban. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York have all held to some variation of an assault weapon ban for years, as has the nation’s capital city. Biden’s home state, Delaware, joined the club in 2022, as did Illinois in early 2023.
Many of these states, like Washington, didn’t require gun owners to relinquish their property. Such a requirement could make it harder to defend against the legal challenges sure to come. Many gun grabbers would have preferred a register or surrender mandate, but for those willing to play the long game, that omission is no great loss. The number of firearms – like any other item – in a given area is always a dynamic value to some degree. Weapons wear out or owners grow tired of them. People move away or die. Without new guns going into private hands in the state, the numbers will dwindle over the years. So while the modern sporting rifle may not have been killed outright in the Evergreen State, it has likely been dealt a crippling blow.
Inslee Comes Full Circle
“We refuse to accept gun violence as normal,” the governor wrote after the assault weapon ban first passed the Senate. “Gun violence, in all its forms, can be prevented.” For Inslee, this represents a victory almost 30 years in the making. He has been advocating for just such a law since 1994, when he voted in favor of the federal ban as a member of Congress. The question remains whether this ban will stand the test of time and judicial review.
All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Liberty Nation.
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