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Washington should ban devices that make semi-automatic rifles fire faster, Inslee says

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 3, 2017

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee at a recent press conference. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee at a recent press conference. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – In the wake of the nation’s worst mass shooting in recent history, Washington should ban devices that turn semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic ones, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.

“We must make sure people intent on causing mass destruction and loss of life won’t be aided by lax laws that give them unfettered access to military-style weaponry,” Inslee said in a press release in which he accused national leaders of not trying to prevent violence like the massacre in Las Vegas.

“I’m done waiting for the ‘right time’ to talk about it,” Inslee said. “The ‘can’t talk about it now’ crowd is killing us.”

Stephen Paddock, the gunman accused of killing 59 people and injuring 527 by spraying hundreds of rounds into a concert crowd Monday night in Las Vegas, had 12 rifles with a device called a bump-stock, which allowed him to fire them more rapidly. An Associated Press report described bump-stocks as a device that covers the trigger opening, making a change that allows the gun to fire rapidly as the recoil “bumps” the trigger.

While they allow for rapid firing, they can lessen accuracy, experts told the AP. But they are legal under federal firearms rules, and can be purchased without the rigorous background check and other restrictions on an automatic weapon.

“This session, the Legislature needs to ban bump-stocks and other devices that turn legal semi-automatic firearms into lethal fully automatic machine guns,” Inslee said.

Numerous gun control measures have been proposed in the Legislature in recent years, but their success has been limited. Last year, Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson asked the Legislature to require anyone who owns, buys or sells certain semi-automatic rifles commonly known as “assault weapons” to obtain a yearly license, be at least 21 and wait three days for a background check similar to one for a handgun.

A bill to do that received a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, but didn’t get a vote out of committee. A similar bill in the Senate didn’t get a hearing.

Another bill supported by gun control advocates would have required stricter storage rules for firearms kept in a home. It passed the House Judiciary Committee but never came up for a vote in the full House. The Senate version of that bill also did not get a committee hearing.

The Legislature did pass bills that would make it easier to prosecute someone who tries to buy a firearm who can’t legally own one, and to notify a victim of domestic violence if their abuser illegally tries to buy a gun.

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