Democratic state legislators announced their intention to pursue sweeping gun control reforms in the upcoming 2018 session at a press conference on Tuesday morning in Seattle.
Central to this would be SB 5444, which was introduced in the 2017 session, and would require an annual permit to own assault rifles, as well as for magazines for rifles or pistols capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
Washington state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, chair of the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee, said the proposed legislation would bring ownership requirements up to par with concealed carry, but a review of the bill shows it would greatly expand the state’s gun control authority.
Currently, it is easier to buy an assault rifle than a handgun in the state. Someone buying a handgun must be over 21, and pass a background check and undergo a waiting period before receiving the gun, unless they have a concealed carry permit, which expedites the process.
Concealed carry permits are issued by local law enforcement agencies.
State residents need only be 18 and pass a background check to purchase longarms like a shotgun or AR-15 and leave with it the same day.
SB 5444 would increase the age to buy assault rifles to 21, and establish a required permit that would need to be renewed annually for people to own magazines with more than 10 rounds.
Violations of this would result in class C felony charges.
Under the proposed bill, a license would cost $50 plus fees imposed by the FBI, and renewal would cost between $20 to $30 each year.
Pedersen touted another bill, SB 5463, which they hope to pass next year, which would allow prosecutors to bring felony charges against a gun owner if and “unauthorized person” uses the gun to cause harm or shows it in public.
Finally, he hopes to create a law that lets people put themselves on a “do not sell” list, which would bar them from purchasing a firearm in the future.
This could be useful for people with mental health conditions who want to prevent themselves from buying a gun.
“We will be moving that bill along this year,” Pedersen said.
State Rep. Nicole Macri spoke at the press conference and said the Legislature will be looking to pass laws allowing local governments to preempt state laws.
City and county laws cannot currently be more strict than state laws.
Newly-elected state Sen. Manka Dhingra also spoke. She was elected on a strong gun control platform in the Eastside’s 45th district.
“Our children are scared,” Dhingra said.
During her campaign, she promised to close two loopholes in state gun law.
The first would place an all-encompassing ban on perpetrators of domestic violence. A provision in current state law lets some people with a record of domestic violence harassment to own guns.
Another loophole allows people with mental health issues and a history of violence who have been charged with a crime and found to be incompetent to own guns.
Dhingra said during her campaign she would seek to put a ban on bump stocks, which allow a semi-automatic assault rifle to essentially shoot like a fully automatic firearm.
Bump stocks gained national attention after they were attached to AR-15s and used to murder 58 people and injure 546 during the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1.
In the wake of the shooting, the national debate turned again to gun control.
Alliance for Gun Control CEO Renee Hopkins spoke at the press conference, saying they were pursuing a different strategy.
“We are making change state by state,” she said.
Across Washington during the November election, some 16 candidates endorsed by the organization were elected to various positions.
Hopkins said they were creating a”gun responsibility” majority in Olympia.
With Dhingra winning the election, both houses of the state Legislature have Democratic majorities, and the party is represented in the Governor’s office by Jay Inslee.