Thousands show up at hearing on proposed state gun laws

OLYMPIA - More than 2,000 people signed into the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Monday, Jan. 21 for hearings on 3-D printed guns, high-capacity magazines, domestic violence, as well as proposed training requirements for legally obtaining a pistol.

Outside of the Legislative Building, a silver Toyota blaring music and displaying a sign bearing words from the Second Amendment circled the World War I memorial for most of the day.

Most of the people who testified, including state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, spoke for or against Senate Bill 5062, which prohibits possessing, manufacturing or distributing ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. Similar legislation was unsuccessfully introduced into the legislature last year.

“Societies around the world have been seeking ways to eliminate violence,” said Daniel Mitchell, a licensed firearms dealer from Vancouver, Washington. “If we’ve learned one thing during that time, it’s that it’s impossible to legislate evil intent.”

“People served best by high-capacity magazines are mass shooters,” said Emily Cantrell, who was at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire, killing 58 and leaving over 850 injured. “The only reason I’m able to sit here today is the mass shooter who tried to kill me and 22,000 other concertgoers had to stop to reload.”

There was also an attempt to define what exactly qualifies a magazine as “high capacity.”

“It’s important, I think, to clarify that these are standard capacity magazines that come with typical semi-automatic handguns that people use to defend themselves on a day-to-day basis,” said Tom Kwiesciak on behalf of the National Rifle Association. “They make up more than half the magazines owned in the United States.”

“If indeed that is true, it’s time that we change our standards to protect Washingtonians,” Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Cornell said in response.

Senate Bill 5061, covering 3-D printed and other “ghost guns” used by criminals, was introduced by seven Democratic Senators at the request of Ferguson. A companion bill was introduced in the House by 17 Representatives.

The legislation would make it a Class C felony to knowingly manufacture, assemble, or facilitate any so-called “ghost gun.” Discharging or using a ghost gun in the commission of a felony would be a Class A felony.

3-D printers create physical objects from “blueprints” stored in computer files. Those files can be emailed to anyone, including children and convicted criminals who have forfeited their right to a firearm, enabling them to create lethal devices without a background check ever taking place.

“One can’t wait for a tragedy to happen,” Ferguson said.

“If that’s allowed to happen, it circumvents every piece of legislation we have drafted to address gun violence in Washington state,” said Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, chairwoman of the Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee in a telephone interview.

Many of those laws were “overwhelmingly” passed by voters, she said.

Ferguson expressed a similar sentiment, noting that it is part of his job to make communities as safe as possible. While existing firearm laws cover current firearm technology, they don’t address 3-D printed guns, which were not of concern when the laws were made.

Firearm owners and those seeking legislation at reducing gun-related violence will have a number of other bills to track during this legislative session.

One Republican lawmaker introduced legislation aimed at making things better for not only law-abiding gun owners, but privacy advocates as well.

Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, introduced two bills addressing what he views as the two most problematic issues in Initiative 1639, the firearms initiative passed by voters last November which also requires background checks and raises the minimum age to 21 for purchasing semi-automatic rifles. Walsh is concerned with the new law’s disclosure of private healthcare information to courts and state agencies; and penalties for firearm owners if a gun is stolen and used for a crime. While Walsh doesn’t seek a full repeal of the initiative, he hopes that he can improve parts of it.

There’s “bad language, bad sections in that law,” Walsh said.

Last Thursday, the Law & Justice Committee held a hearing on Senate Bills 5027 and 5072, which modify provisions in extreme risk protection order legislation. Extreme risk protection orders allow authorities to temporarily confiscate firearms after an individual is determined to be in “significant danger of causing personal injury to self or others” by having firearms. Petitioners can be either family or household members, including dating partners.

“In 2015 … I introduced the extreme risk protection order legislation, which I believe is common sense legislation to address the intersection of mental health and access to guns,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, who sponsored the bills. In the digest for the legislation, in cases were the source of a weapon could be determined in a school shooting, 85 percent were obtained from a friend, relative or at home.

The updated legislation allows extreme risk protection orders to be served against individuals under the age of 18 and requires the parent or guardian to be notified of their legal obligation to secure any firearms on the premise. It will also increase the penalty for violations of the orders to a Class 3 felony on the second violation instead of the third.

In addition to already introduced legislation, Jinkins said voters can look out for bills regulating firearms in childcare settings the local regulation of firearms, which should come through the committee in coming weeks.

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