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Spin Control

Bill proposes: Want an assault weapon? Get a license.

The Washington state Capitol building in Olympia features the classic dome architecture and houses the governor's office and the Legislature's two chambers. Photographed Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Washington state Capitol building in Olympia features the classic dome architecture and houses the governor's office and the Legislature's two chambers. Photographed Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Washington residents who want to own, buy or sell a semi-automatic assault rifle would have to obtain an annual license from 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 weekthat would ban new sales of assault weapons under many conditions.

The license bill is requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson and has 19 cosponsors, all Democrats. But it 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 subject to any court orders involving firearms, in court on any felony charges, had a court order to forfeit a gun in the last year, or convicted of a felony. 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.

Jinkins, who is chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, said she expects to schedule a hearing on the bill, as well as some other firearms legislation, in early February. 



Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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