Jan 16, 2024 - Politics

5 gun control bills to watch in Washington's Legislature

Illustration of a gun with a "no" symbol for a trigger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

State lawmakers are looking at ways to beef up Washington's gun control laws, such as banning firearms in more public places and possibly requiring gun buyers to get permits.

Why it matters: Last year, Washington saw its highest number of mass shootings in at least a decade.

  • The state's firearm death rate has ticked upward in recent years, from 8.8 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2005 to 11.2 per 100,000 in 2021, per the CDC.

Zoom in: Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell is urging the Legislature to adopt several gun control measures, including the gun permitting bill and a proposal to ban guns in places such as parks, zoos, libraries and transit stations.

  • The mayor also wants the Legislature to stop bulk sales of firearms by letting dealers sell a maximum of one gun to the same person in a 30-day period.
  • Those bills are scheduled for public hearings this week.

Of note: Last year, Seattle matched its previous record of 69 homicides, set in 1994, the Seattle Times reported.

  • Many of those homicides involved firearms, although Seattle police couldn't immediately confirm exactly how many.

What they're saying: Democratic leaders told reporters last week that they're interested in finding additional ways to reduce gun violence, after passing a law last year banning the sales of so-called assault weapons.

  • "It is important that we continue making progress," said state Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), who chairs the Senate Law & Justice Committee and is a deputy Senate majority leader.

Yes, but: Lawmakers are less likely to advance another measure sought by Seattle's mayor, which would allow cities to enact their own local gun control measures.

  • In the past, Washington legislators have preferred to enact statewide gun control policies to avoid a patchwork of different local laws.

The other side: House Republican Leader Drew Stokesbary (R-Auburn) told Axios his members likely "will have significant concerns about legislation that adversely impacts law-abiding gun owners."

  • That likely includes the gun permitting bill, which would require most people to pass a background check and take a certified safety course before they could obtain the paperwork needed to buy a firearm.
  • Of note: A Republican proposal instead would offer cash rewards to people who give police information about guns used in crimes.

What's next: Several of the gun-related measures, including the permitting bill, are tentatively scheduled to be voted on by legislative committees this week.

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