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House proposal would require assault rifle owners obtain annual licenses, complete gun safety course

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 19, 2017, 10:49 p.m.

FILE – In this Oct. 3, 2013, file photo, a custom-made semi-automatic hunting rifle with a high-capacity detachable magazine is displayed at TDS Guns in Rocklin, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo)
FILE – In this Oct. 3, 2013, file photo, a custom-made semi-automatic hunting rifle with a high-capacity detachable magazine is displayed at TDS Guns in Rocklin, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo)

OLYMPIA – Washington residents who want to own, buy or sell a semi-automatic assault rifle would have to obtain an annual license from a local law enforcement agency under a proposal introduced this week in the House.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, the bill’s sponsor, said it was an attempt to follow voters’ wishes expressed in recent ballot measures to improve gun safety by extending background checks to many private sales of firearms and approving “extreme risk protection orders” that allow a court to remove guns from persons who are judged a danger to themselves or others based on reports of family members or law enforcement.

“This is not a ban,” she said. “Washington voters have said, ‘We expect the state to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.’ ”

A separate bill was introduced last week that would ban new sales of assault weapons under many conditions.

The license bill is requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson and has 19 co-sponsors, all Democrats. Because its sponsor is also the chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, it stands a good chance of being sent to the full House. Its prospects after that are less clear because gun control legislation has failed to pass the House and been ignored in the Senate.

The bill also drew a quick call from Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, to fight it.

Shea has proposed several bills to expand gun rights, as well as a proposal to repeal Initiative 594, which voters approved in 2014 to expand background checks on gun purchases.

In a post on his blog, Shea called it “the latest anti-gun bill out of Olympia … We are fighting this tooth and nail.” He listed the office addresses and phone numbers of members of the House Judiciary Committee, which will hold a hearing on the bill.

The bill would cover some semi-automatic rifles and pistols based on different features like flash suppressors, folding or telescoping stocks, grenade or flare launchers, or second hand grips. It also requires a license for large capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds.

A person applying for a license must be at least 21; not be subject to any court orders involving firearms; not be facing felony charges; not have had a court order to forfeit a gun in the last year; and not have had a felony conviction. Applicants must also have completed a course on gun safety in the last three years and sign a statement that the weapons and large capacity magazines will be kept in secure storage.

Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, is a co-sponsor of the licensing bill because of the education provisions, but did not sign on to the proposed ban.

“I appreciate the fact we’re trying to focus on safety,” Ormsby said Thursday.

Jinkins said she expects to schedule a committee hearing on the bill, as well as some other firearms legislation, in early February.


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