OLYMPIA – A proposal to ban certain semi-automatic firearms was praised by the mother of a shooting victim and a city police chief Tuesday, but panned by gun-rights activists.
The proposal, SB 6396, which would ban weapons commonly called “military-style assault weapons,” generated references to the Halloween slaying of a Seattle police officer and a 1994 shooting spree at Fairchild Air Force Base. It also prompted a debate between a state senator and a police chief over the definition of “lethal.”
Banning assault weapons with clips that fire more than 10 rounds is a way to protect police officers, Bellevue, Wash., police Chief Linda Pillo said. About a fifth of all officers killed in the line of duty from 1998 to 2001 were shot by assault weapons, she said, and 10 officers in North Hollywood were wounded by a pair of bank robbers armed with the weapons in 1997.
“Which guns are lethal and which are not?” asked Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn. “How many rounds does it take to kill a person or a deer?”
Debra Sullivan, of Seattle, whose 17-year-old son Aaron was killed last summer by another teen firing a semi-automatic weapon, said the state protects children from alcohol, drugs and tobacco, and limits when they can drive and vote. “I’d love to see us take some action to protect our young people from assault weapons,” Sullivan said.
Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, sponsor of the bill and chairman of the Judiciary Committee hearing it, said the bill includes descriptions of features on firearms such as pistol grips on rifles and barrel shrouds that make a gun “more lethal than your average deer rifle.” That prompted laughter in the hearing room which, based on a show of hands requested by Roach, was overwhelmingly opposed to the bill. Kline suggested that if opponents had problems with the language, they could suggest their own.
But Brian Judy, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Washington, said no language could be suggested because the bill was “unconstitutionally arbitrary” and a ban would have to cover all semi-automatics or none. “You can’t carve out some,” Judy said.
Kline disagreed, saying a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling said that states could set reasonable limits on firearms.
Reasonable limits, replied Judy, already exist and ban possession of firearms by felons and people with mental problems.
Action on the bill was delayed until a later hearing. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said previously she doesn’t think there’s enough support to pass the bill this session.