Olympia Latest: Dems push New Gun Bill

February 28, 2018
BY Keith Eldridge

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A major piece of gun legislation has resurfaced in the final days of the Legislature to increase the age to buy an assault rifle.

It comes in the wake of the Florida school shooting.

There was plenty of emotion on both sides of the issue on Tuesday. Advocates want safer schools. Opponents fear this is another step in the direction of full control. The main issue at the Tuesday hearing was the effort to push the age of legally buying an assault weapon from 18 to 21.

"We are long overdue for us to send a message to our children that they matter more to us than providing easy access to military style weaponry," testified Paul Kramer. His son Will nearly lost his life in the shooting at a Mukilteo party by a 19-year-old who legally purchased an assault rifle.

This revamped bill (SB 6620) would raise that limit to 21, which is the legal age to buy pistols. But the NRA is opposed to raising the age limit. Keely Hopkins of the NRA testified on the bill's effect: "Thereby severely limiting an entire segment of law abiding adults from exercising their inherent right to self-defense."

Gun rights supporters say rifles are used in only 3 percent of violent crimes as opposed to handguns. Gun instructor Brett Bass testified, "Violent crimes are overwhelmingly committed with handguns, and when we start talking about good policy we have to understand that good policy addresses the majority case and not the marginal one."

Adam Cornell, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor snapped back: "And I want every single member of the committee to know that there was nothing marginal about Anna, Jake and Jordan. There was nothing marginal about those lives." He was referring to those killed in the Mukilteo shooting.

If these arguments sound familiar, a similar hearing was held in early January, but the bill stalled. Then came the Florida school shooting one month later and the bill to increase the rifle purchase age gained new traction.

"I'm saddened that it took another tragedy," said Sen. David Frockt, D-bill sponsor. "A slaughter of 17 people in six minutes with 100 rounds fired from a crazed guy with an AR-15 to bring us to this point."

It was the slaughter of 58 people and the injuries to 851 in Las Vegas that brought about the ban on bump stock attachments to assault weapons (SB 5992). The final floor vote in the Senate taken Tuesday afternoon, 31-18. The ban is now on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee.

But there's concern by many Republicans this is just another step toward full gun control. Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, said. "I've become concerned that it has become a slippery slope going to eliminate our ability to protect our Second Amendment right."

Wednesday Republican Sen. Phil Fortunato is set to officially unveil his bill to train and arm teachers and staff in schools.

With only nine days left in the regular session sponsors say it'll be a challenge to get these bills through.