OLYMPIA – The House could vote in the next three weeks whether to ban bump stocks and allow people in mental or emotional distress to voluntarily surrender their firearms.
The day after the nation’s latest mass shooting, the Judiciary Committee voted to send two bills that have passed the Senate on those issues to the full House.
Committee Chairwoman Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said the ban on bump stocks – a device that can make a semiautomatic rifle fire almost as fast as an automatic weapon – addresses what she believes is a dangerous addition to a firearm. It wasn’t a perfect solution, she said, but would improve safety.
The bill would make it illegal in Washington to make or sell the device after July 1, and illegal to buy, transport or possess one a year later.
Opponents said the bill should have a grandfather clause to exempt people who currently own a bump stock, which can be used by those with disabilities that don’t allow them to operate a regular trigger.
“They’ll become criminals overnight, just by owning a device that’s currently legal,” Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie, said, adding he hoped some type of grandfather clause could get added when the bill goes to the full House.
A separate bill allows a person in emotional or mental distress to waive their rights to purchase or receive firearms, putting them on a database that dealers check before making a sale. That voluntary waiver could later be revoked.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, argued the bill wasn’t necessary because family or friends could report a person in distress and get them the help they need. “It’s not the weapon that’s the dangerous thing, it’s the person,” he said.
But Jinkins said the bill provided a way for the person to take their own action.
“This bill seems like actually the least we can do on a day like today,” Jinkins said, a reference to the Parkland, Florida, shooting in which the alleged gunman reportedly had a history of threats on social media.
In separate meetings before the committee vote, Republican and Democratic leaders said the state needs to do more on mental health services to prevent people with mental or emotional problems from getting to the point of pulling the trigger.
But they had very different ideas on other ways to address gun violence.
Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, said she was glad the Senate passed the bump-stock ban but thought more extensive gun safety legislation that failed to pass this year may have to come from voters through the initiative process.
A citizen’s initiative might be the more appropriate way to get restrictions into law because such bills are difficult to pass in the Legislature, Deputy Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane said. Asked what restrictions he thought should go to the voters, he replied: “It’s up to the citizens.”
House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen, of Snohomish, said in a separate press conference that if the Legislature was serious about stopping school shootings, it should consider providing state money for schools to hire armed security guards, or provide weapons and security training for school staff and community volunteers.
“Maybe we should fund it. I think it’s time to have that conversation,” Kristiansen said.
There is no current legislation that would provide such aid to schools, and introducing and passing such legislation in the three weeks remaining in the current session would be difficult.