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Guns, safety up for debate in WA 2022 legislature

Firearms


OLYMPIA, Wash. — Guns and their safety are up for debate once again in Washington — a state that already has some of the toughest control laws in the country.

The Senate and Justice Committee heard multiple bill proposals and public comments on Monday from citizens on both sides.

The four bills include S.B. 5568, 5690, 5217, and 5407.

S. B. 5568 would allow the local government to make informed decisions on restricting the open carry of a firearm or other weapon at “any public meeting, any building or facility owned or operated by a city, town, county, or other municipality, or at a permitted demonstration within their respective jurisdictions.”

“I think it is imperative that local governments have the ability to make decisions on where people can carry guns in their jurisdiction, said Liz Hjelmseth, a concerned citizen.

But Sharyn Hinchcliffe with the Pink Pistols of Seattle and Tacoma disagrees.

“We are not scared to walk into a room where people might be armed. We are worried about walking into an arena where everyone is armed but us,” Hinchcliffe said.

S.B. 5690 allows the color and honor guard to carry a firearm on the Capitol’s campus if they’re actively participating in an organized event.

“Duly authorized federal, state, or local law enforcement officers or personnel are exempt from this section when carrying a firearm or other weapon in conformance with their employing agency’s policy. Members of the armed forces of the United States or the state of Washington are exempt from this section when carrying a firearm or other weapon in the discharge of official duty or traveling to or from official duty,” the bill said.

“Senate Bill 5690 does not fix all the problems that Senate Bill 5038 created but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Aiobheann Cline with the National Rifle Association.

But Carter McKaughan with the Montlake Investigations Group said that might not be fair.

“As a citizen, if I’m not allowed to carry a firearm then perhaps we should consider why that is, and perhaps military or police would be allowed to in certain circumstances,” McKaughan said.

S.B. 5217 would ban assault weapons and guns, including semiautomatic, rimfire, and centerfire rifles.

“No person in this state may manufacture, possess, distribute, import, transfer, sell, offer for sale, purchase, or otherwise transfer any assault weapon except as authorized in this section,” the bill said.

It does, however, offer exemptions for military and law enforcement officials. Lawful possession would include private properties, hunting, and firing ranges.

For Jim Parsons, who lost his daughter in the 2017 Vegas mass shooting, this bill is necessary.

“We need our legislators to take responsibility now. Do your job. Fight to protect our schools, our families, our communities just like the responsible legislators in seven other states.,” Parsons said.

But for citizen Nathan Tynes, this bill is concerning.

“As an African American, I once again have to contend with people telling me and not sharing my life experiences what I can and can’t own while still acknowledging the fact that these laws according to multiple states and federal jurisdictions are being prosecuted against people like me more often than anyone else,” Tynes said.

Last but not least, S.B. 5407 would target criminals by increasing their consequences for stealing guns and other firearms.

“Only by increasing penalties will we ensure criminals think twice before stealing a gun and using it in a crime. Senate Bill 5407 is the first step in reducing gun violence,” said Robin Ball.

But Kari Reardon with the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said that might not be true.

“Multiple studies have occurred over the course of time all showing that increased sentences are not a deterrent to crime. This is something that will be born on cities and counties to pay for more trials,” Reardon said.

To watch the full committee hearing, click here.

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