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Bump Stock Bill Goes To Washington's Governor

New York Times

Washington Governor Jay Inslee now must decide whether to sign or veto a bill that would eventually ban the possession of so-called ‘bump stocks’. Those are the devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to shoot even more rapidly. Bump stocks were blamed in part for the magnitude of the carnage in last fall’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.

In January, the state Senate approved the bill. Last Friday, the House passed a slightly modified version, one that allows the state to buy bump stocks from their owners for $150, assuming money is available for that. And on Tuesday, the Senate approved that version as well. Now the bill is off to the governor.

The bill would make it illegal to make or sell a bump stock as of July 1, 2018. It would give the state a year to buy back the devices from their owners. And then, on July 1, 2019, the bump stocks become illegal even to possess. Violators would be guilty of a felony.

The first speaker in the House debate was Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma).

“Mr. Speaker, it’s always been my belief that lawmakers should be judged not on what we say in response to gun violence, but on what we do in response to gun violence," Jinkins said. "At my town hall last weekend, and I think many others also heard this, we had questions given to us about what is it you are doing about gun violence here in Washington state.

"This legislation is about doing something about gun violence. No single thing we do will end it, but there are many, many steps we can take that will advance our ability to curb gun violence and that’s what this bill will do," she said.

On the other side of the aisle and the issue was Rep. Jay Rodne (R-Snoqualmie).

“I appreciate the gentle lady’s comments and the heartfelt devotion that she brings to this issue and her desire to achieve some results," Rodne said. "Unfortunately, this bill is not going to make a difference in the issue of gun violence because we know that all the mass shootings that we’ve had are related to mental illness. This bill does nothing to address the root cause of the gun violence that we see in our culture.

"I could have been supportive of this bill had we had agreement on some of the reasonable amendments that we brought before the body to protect those groups of individuals, such as disabled people, such as disabled veterans, such as law enforcement officers. Those individuals who are highly trained or perhaps need to use this kind of device in order to exercise their Second Amendment rights," he said. "But we failed to reach agreement. And as the good gentleman indicated in his striking amendment, what we’ve set up now is a system of confiscation, where we are empowering government to enter and confiscate. That, to me, is very frightening, Mr. Speaker.”

Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) picked up where Rodne left off.

“Mr. Speaker, I served in Srebrenica," Shea said. "And the common thing in Srebrenica when the Serbs came was they went door-to-door and they disarmed the people and then they lined them up outside of a mass grave and then shot them. I stood on the edge of that mass grave, Mr. Speaker. 

"This is an incremental step. It is unconstitutional. It is against the very foundations of America and this state. And it is not going to change the hearts of bad people. It is not going to deal with the mental health crisis we have. It is not going to deal with the veteran suicide epidemic that we have. That’s where our priority should be," Shea said.

Next was Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds), who referenced a mass shooting in his community two years ago.

“Mr. Speaker, I think I speak for everybody, both sides of the aisle, that we want our communities to feel safe. We want people to feel safe when they go to the movies, when they go to a concert in the park, when they go to the county fair," Peterson said.

"But Mr. Speaker, on that July night and after last weekend in Parkland, Florida and after last year in Las Vegas, our communities don’t feel safe. So Mr. Speaker, I ask that you support this because this just might be one of those things that lets our communities sleep a little bit better tonight. I think there’s more that we can do and I hope we can work across the aisle to talk about the many issues about gun violence,” he said.

The House approved the bill 56-41. Then the Senate took a second turn at the bill. A few Republicans continued to make their case, including Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane).

On Wednesday, President Trump announced in a meeting with Congressional members at the White House that he supports getting rid of bump stocks. Baumgartner urged the state to pay attention to what’s going on in the other Washington.  

“We all know that things travel across state lines at times and that if you get differences in certain rulings across states, it creates even more confusion, so I think this is an important bill to discuss, but given what’s going on at the national level, it would be better for Washington state to take a pause on this and then deal with it at the national level, and if they don’t, we can certainly come back to this issue again next year,” Baumgartner said.

His argument didn’t win the day as the Senate, including several Republicans, voted 31-18 to ban bump stocks. The governor will take the next action on the bill.


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