OLYMPIA — Paul Kramer has traveled many times to the state Capitol the past few years.
Few trips proved as satisfying as Wednesday’s, when the Mukilteo resident stood a few strides from Gov. Jay Inslee to watch him sign a new law banning the sale of large capacity ammunition magazines.
Kramer’s been fighting for a ban since the summer of 2016 when a 19-year-old with a semi-automatic weapon and 30-round clip killed Anna Bui, Jake Long and Jordan Ebner, and seriously wounded Kramer’s son, Will.
“This is a milestone. It’s incredibly satisfying and joyful,” Paul Kramer said afterwards. “It’s surprising too because there’s been a lot of resistance and a lot of opposition that kept us from getting to this point for many years.”
Inslee signed Senate Bill 5078 making it illegal in Washington to make, sell, distribute or import a firearm magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. It does not bar possession of them. The law takes effect July 1.
It also makes the sale of a banned ammo magazine a violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act. This enables the attorney general’s office to pursue violations by those who might try to sell them online to Washington residents.
Washington will be the 10th state with some form of limit on magazine capacity, according to Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who pushed for the ban in each of the past six legislative sessions.
“This has been an incredible journey,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, sponsor of the bill and a former Mukilteo City Council member. “The goal here is to get them off the shelves.”
Also Wednesday, the governor signed measures to expand restrictions on where people can openly carry guns, and to prohibit possession and sale of untraceable homemade weapons known as ghost guns.
Under House Bill 1630, it will be illegal to knowingly bring firearms — either openly carried or carried with a concealed pistol license — and other weapons to school board meetings and ballot counting centers. Also, openly carried weapons will be prohibited at other election-related sites, like county election offices, and where local government boards, like city and county councils, meet. Most of the law takes effect June 8.
The other measure, House Bill 1705 targets ghost guns. It requires unfinished firearm frames and receivers — which can be bought and converted into working guns — be registered and imprinted with a serial number from a licensed firearms dealer. Making and selling of untraceable firearms is outlawed starting July 1.
Critics contend the new laws infringe on their ability to fully exercise their Second Amendment rights. Opponents and Republican lawmakers made their case in legislative hearings, but Democrats used their majorities in the House and Senate to pass the bills.
“You have a right to bear arms, but not without some reasonable limitations, and this is one of them,” Kramer said. “You have a right to defend yourself. Ten rounds ought to be enough.”
Rep. April Berg, D-Mill Creek, who penned provisions to keep guns out of school board meetings and ballot counting locations, said foes focus on what they say is being taken from them.
“What’s being given them is a sense of safety,” she said. “Folks will be safer. We have the Second Amendment right to bear arms. We don’t have the right to bring those arms into places where they will harm other people much like in schools.”
Wednesday brought more political success for gun control activists and their Democratic Party allies.
In the past five years, through initiative and legislation, the state has expanded background checks, created extreme risk protection orders, banned bump stocks, increased the age to buy semi-automatic weapons and prohibited the open carry of weapons near permitted demonstrations.
A recurring theme cited by supporters is that the laws signed Wednesday will further enhance public safety.
Kramer pointed out the teen who carried out the Mukilteo slayings did so with a legally purchased weapon and a 30-round magazine. Today, he could not buy the gun, and soon, magazines of that size won’t be sold in Washington.
“I have no doubt the (magazine capacity) law will save lives,” he said. “It could have made a difference in Mukilteo.”
It is a point made by Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell as well.
“As I have been telling our legislature and those in the community for years, the bill will undeniably make our community safer by reducing the likelihood of mass violence like the kind that occurred in Mukilteo in July of 2016,” he said.
Going forward, it will be critically important that “law enforcement officers and prosecutors throughout the state uniformly enforce the law as they are constitutionally required to do,” he said.
Brett Bass of Edmonds, an NRA certified firearms instructor and safety officer, opposed the three bills.
“I disagree with the assessment that they will further public safety,” said Bass, a member of the Washington Civil Rights Association.
Lawmakers are empowered to prescribe limits, he said. The electorate will be able to take their stance into account this fall, he said.
“We will remind people how their representative voted,” he said.
These bills resonate with the public. He pointed to the roughly 15,000 people signed in on one side or the other during legislative hearings on the high capacity magazine ban. The majority opposed the bill.
Voters may get the final say on that bill.
Karen Jennings of Kent has filed a referendum. She could be cleared to print petitions and gather signatures as early as this weekend. To qualify for the ballot, she must turn in valid signatures of at least 162,258 registered voters by June 8.
If she turns in enough signatures, the law won’t take effect until the election result is known.
Jennings said she is part of a collective of women opposed to the measure. They’ve not yet formed a political committee. Nor, she said, are they aligned with any gun rights group such as the National Rifle Association or Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms based in Bellevue.
“Lawmakers have had their say,” Jennings said. “We need to take it to the people and see what they think.”
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dospueblos.
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