“Assault weapons have no reason other than mass murder. Their only purpose is to kill humans as rapidly as possible in large numbers,” Inslee said at the state capitol Tuesday. “AR-15s should not be idolized, they should be prohibited, and that’s what we’re doing here today.”
The White House praised the legislation, which press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said makes “every community in the state — from Seattle to Spokane and everywhere in between — safer and more secure.” Last month, President Biden called on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban after six people were killed in a school shooting in Nashville.
The United States continues to face rampant gun violence, with more than 170 mass shootings recorded so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Assault weapons, which the bill describes as “civilian versions of weapons created for the military” that “are designed to kill humans quickly,” have long been at the center of conversations about how to prevent gun violence, especially the AR-15, which was used in mass killings in Newtown, Conn.; Parkland, Fla.; Uvalde, Tex.; and elsewhere. A 2019 report looking at public mass killings with four or more deaths found that assault rifles accounted for more than 85 percent of fatalities.
Washington is the 10th U.S. state to generally ban assault weapons, joining California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, as well as D.C., according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, who leads the Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program at the University of Washington, said that the new law considers “broader public safety interests” and is based on evidence-based links between assault weapons and mass shootings.
Opponents of Washington’s legislation say it violates the Second Amendment and mischaracterizes the weapons involved. The state’s Republican Party accused Inslee of “ignoring the root causes of gun violence and infringing on law-abiding citizens’ rights” in a post on Twitter.
The bill is already facing at least one legal battle. The Second Amendment Foundation, a Bellevue-based gun rights advocacy group, on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law on Second and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. The group’s vice president, Alan M. Gottlieb, accused the state of criminalizing “a common and important means of self-defense, the modern semiautomatic rifle,” and putting “politics ahead of constitutional rights.”
Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, said at the capitol Tuesday that such legal action was expected and that his office has defended gun reform bills against the NRA and Second Amendment Foundation before. “We are undefeated, and we plan to keep that record intact,” he said.
Ferguson first proposed banning the sale of assault weapons after the 2016 shooting in Mukilteo, Wash., that left three teenagers dead. The gunman read an AR-15 manual before the killing and saw the weapon as a “symbol of power,” according to court documents reported on by The Post at the time.
Inslee also signed two other gun-reform bills Tuesday, including one that requires those interested in purchasing a firearm to go through safety training and a 10-day waiting period. The other allows consumers to more easily sue firearm manufacturers for “irresponsible conduct,” Inslee’s office said.