UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – A firearms instructor slammed Washington state’s new “assault weapons” ban as discriminatory against women because it outlaws one of the most popular rifle models: the AR-15.
“For a lot of women, it’s taken away the personal protection option of choice that works best for them,” Jane Milhans of the Washington State Rifle and Pistol Association told Fox News. “So the law is clearly discriminating against women.”
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Gov. Jay Inslee signed a package of gun control bills into law last month, including House Bill 1240. The law immediately banned the manufacture, sale and import of dozens of semiautomatic rifle models in Washington with the goal of preventing mass shootings.
“No one needs an AR-15 to protect your family,” Inslee said before signing the bill into law. “You only need it to kill other families.”
Milhans disagreed, arguing that AR-15 style guns are the most popular rifles among women because of their female-friendly features like a stock that can be adjusted to fit smaller frames. They also have less recoil than many other rifles or shotguns.
“So it makes it safer for a woman, both in a home defense situation or if they’re shooting on a rifle league or something like that,” she said.
Women are one of the fastest-growing groups of gun owners. And while handguns are the most popular firearm, rifles are a close second, according to the Pew Research Center. More than 60% of gun owners surveyed said they had a rifle, and AR-15s consistently lead the category in sales.
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“What does AR-15 stand for?” Milhans asked her all-female firearms class near Tacoma, a question she poses to all new students.
“Automatic rifle” and “assault rifle” are the most common guesses, Milhans said, but neither is correct — AR stands for ArmaLite Rifle, after the company that developed it.
The narrative around semiautomatic guns is full of “misconceptions,” students in Milhans’ class told Fox News.
“Everything in the news and media is making it sound like this is the most murderous weapon out there and this is what everyone’s getting to kill our kids in school systems,” said Jessica McCoy, who said she felt nervous around guns prior to the training session.
“These are not big, scary, automatic guns that are being banned in our state,” Lisa Olson said. “The AR-15 is a semi-automatic. You could only send one bullet through at a time, and the public thinks otherwise it seems like.”
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Milhans said Washington’s new gun laws target the wrong people.
“They’re targeting us, the law-abiding firearm owners, instead of the criminals,” she said. “Criminals will buy their rifles through black market drug deals, straw purchase, whatever illegal means. And so the law won’t impact them.”
McCoy called the ban an “overreach of the government.”
“They’re just continuing to disarm us,” she said. “They want to take control. They’re not educating the public accurately on what they are doing, and slowly they’re taking away our rights.”
Banning so-called “assault weapons” appears popular with American voters, though: A recent Fox News Poll found six in 10 favor banning “assault rifles” and semiautomatic weapons.
At the same time, only 43% of registered voters polled believe stricter gun laws will make the country safer, a nearly 10% decrease from 2016. The shift comes primarily from women, Republicans and independents.
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Washington’s HB 1240 is already facing numerous lawsuits, including from the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Silent Majority Foundation, the Second Amendment Foundation and a coalition of gun stores, a firearms manufacturer and a former Olympic rifle shooting competitor.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote that his office is “undefeated in court against the gun lobby” and plans “to keep that record intact.” Ferguson announced his campaign for governor earlier this month.
Ramiro Vargas contributed to the accompanying video.