Four anti-gun Democrat lawmakers representing four Seattle-area districts have filed a bill to ban so-called “assault weapons” in Washington State, with definitions based almost entirely on cosmetics rather than on the actual function of the firearm.
The bill is sponsored by State Senators Adam Kline (37th District), Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th District), Darlene Fairley (32nd District) and Joe McDermott (34th District). McDermott is the majority assistant floor leader.
Ironically, the bill was filed on the same day that Chelan County Sheriff Mike Harum was quoted by the Wenatchee World noting that criminals like the man who gunned down four Lakewood police officers on Nov. 29 will not be deterred by gun control laws. He sat on a law enforcement panel appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire in the aftermath of that shooting to determine if changes in state law might reduce the possibility of another such incident.
Our fear was that if a legislator has a knee-jerk reaction to this whole incident, he might come up with something that we would not be able to work with as a community.”—Chelan County Sheriff Mike Harum
Harum told the newspaper that the panel feared a “knee-jerk reaction” by some lawmaker, such as an “assault weapon” ban or registration of all firearms in the state.
Senate Bill 6396 offers a broad definition of an “assault weapon” that includes semiautomatic pistols, rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than ten cartridges in a detachable magazine. Thumbhole and pistol-grip stocks (such as those found on many popular shotguns designed for hunting wild turkeys or big game, and sporting rifles now marketed for varmint and predator hunters) also raise a flag, as do muzzle brakes and compensators, and pump-action rifles or shotguns capable of accepting detachable magazines.
Typically, there is a specific exemption for law enforcement officers. Gun rights activists have long argued that police officers should never be exempt from laws they are required to enforce.
Harum said he has heard rumors that some legislators want to ban assault weapons and others want to require that all guns be registered.
"Maurice Clemmons violated many firearms laws before he murdered the officers, so it seems rather dubious to argue additional laws might have prevented this tragedy," Harum said.
Of course, people may keep the "assault weapons" they already own, but there are certain provisions, including the possibility of being visited by a sheriff's deputy once each year for an inspection, to make sure the firearm is being "safely" stored. Anybody willing to just open the door to an unscheduled, warrantless search by a sheriff's deputy, raise your hand.
Not all Democrats will support this measure, but there may be concerns in Olympia that such legislation, unilaterally sponsored by ranking Seattle-area Democrats, could have a negative effect during this fall’s election cycle for Democrats in rural districts, where voter unrest is already rising over taxes and spending. While the four sponsors live in liberal Seattle districts where they are considered politically bullet-proof, many of their Democrat caucus colleagues are vulnerable.
(5) In order to continue to possess an assault weapon that was legally possessed on the effective date of this section, the person possessing the assault weapon shall do all of the following:
(a) Safely and securely store the assault weapon. The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection;
(b) Possess the assault weapon only on property owned or immediately controlled by the person, or while engaged in the legal use of the assault weapon at a duly licensed firing range, or while traveling to or from either of these locations for the purpose of engaging in the legal use of the assault weapon, provided that the assault weapon is stored unloaded and in a separate locked container during transport. - Senate Bill 6396
Rural Democrats should be wary of any such legislation, as it only reinforces the image of Democrats as the “Party of Gun Control.”
If the Democrat-controlled Legislature hikes taxes to make up for a $2.6 billion revenue shortfall that developed under Democrat control in Olympia, a law attacking the gun rights of rural Washingtonians could easily push those voters over the edge and bring occasional voters to the polls in huge numbers, resulting a political sea change in November. Voter frustration has a way of becoming voter fury when lawmakers stick one hand in their wallet and the other hand in their gun cabinet.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Kline is chair and Kohl-Welles is a member. Other committee members are
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