On Wednesday, the Democrats in charge of the Washington state House passed a ban on assault weapons, making progress on a measure that supporters of gun control have wanted for a long time.
The measure was passed by a vote of 55-42, with most votes falling along party lines, according to The Seattle Times.
The action on Wednesday moved the ban on assault weapons further than any of the six previous times it was tried. It will now go to the state Senate, where Democrats also have a majority.
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says that if it passes the Senate and is signed into law, Washington would join nine other states that have laws that generally ban the sale, manufacture, and transfer of assault weapons.
The Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, was in the chamber to watch the vote, which he said was very important. Inslee, who served in Congress before becoming governor said –
“It is something that I’ve believed in since 1994 when I voted to make this federal law.”
He said that the Legislature had broken “the NRA’s lock on Washington” and that “the vast majority of Washingtonians support this commonsense measure.”
The number of gun deaths in the U.S. is at its highest level in decades, so Democrats in Washington state are using their majorities to push for an assault-weapon ban and other gun restrictions, like a 10-day waiting period before buying a gun and a bill that would hold gunmakers responsible for careless sales.
During the debate on the assault weapons bill, Democrats talked about how many people have been killed in schools, churches, nightclubs, and grocery stores by men with assault-style weapons like AR-15s.
Darya Farivar, a Democrat from Seattle, complained about the modern cycle of “deaths, sadness, thoughts and prayers, and then back to.” She said she has been in lockdown because of a shooter, and she was upset about how scared schoolchildren are.
Republicans said the ban goes against the federal and state constitutions and said it would be overturned because of this. They also say it wouldn’t stop criminals or stop mass shootings, and it would take away the rights of law-abiding people who want to protect their families.
“Firearms are the great equalizer,” said state Rep. Travis Couture, R-Allyn, praising their use to defend against “all sorts of predators.”
The bill names more than 50 types of guns that would not be allowed to be sold in the state in the future. These include military-style guns like AR-15s, AK-47s, and M-16s.
It also says what kinds of guns aren’t allowed, like semi-automatic rifles that are shorter than 30 inches or have detachable or fixed magazines that can hold ten rounds or more.
As part of a package that Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson talked about in December, lawmakers have moved forward with the gun restrictions.
This week, the state House passed House Bill 1143, which requires all gun buyers to wait 10 days and take a safety class before they can buy a gun. They were needed for semiautomatic rifles already.
Last week, the state Senate passed a bill that would give the Washington Attorney General the power to hold gun manufacturers or sellers accountable for sales that lead to criminals or mass shooters getting guns.
Each gun measure still needs to be looked at and voted on by the other chamber in the coming weeks. The legislative session is set to last until late April.