Jun 16, 2022 - News

How Washington's gun control laws compare to the rest of the country

Illustration of a lock and chain around an AR-15.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Washington has stricter gun control laws than most other states — and that's largely due to our voters.

State of play: Washington is one of seven U.S. states that have enacted bans on people under 21 buying semi-automatic rifles.

  • This category of firearm includes AR-15s, like the one the shooter in Uvalde, Texas used to kill 19 children and two teachers last month.
  • The Uvalde gunman bought two semiautomatic rifles from a licensed firearm dealer shortly after his 18th birthday — a purchase that wouldn’t be allowed under Washington’s law.

Flashback: Washington voters approved the new age restrictions in 2018 with the passage of Initiative 1639.

  • In 2014, the state’s voters also approved Initiative 594, which requires universal background checks for gun purchases.
  • Another ballot measure approved in 2016, Initiative 1491, established Washington’s red flag law, which lets family members and law enforcement obtain a court order to temporarily remove guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Separately, Washington’s Legislature passed a law this year banning the sale, manufacture and distribution of large-capacity magazines that contain more than 10 rounds.

Of note: In advance of the large-capacity magazine ban taking effect July 1, gun shops are reporting skyrocketing sales statewide, The Seattle Times reports.

The bottom line: Gun laws in Washington state are already stricter than what members of Congress appear poised to pass as part of a newly reached bipartisan deal on gun safety.

The federal legislation, however, could provide Washington and other states with more money for mental health programs and to support the implementation of red flag laws.


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