OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee sat down at the end of his conference table Tuesday and reminded those around him it had been 156 days since a man firing semiautomatic weapons out a hotel window in Las Vegas killed 58 people attending a country music festival.
Then he signed a new law outlawing the sale and possession in Washington of devices known as bump stocks, which the shooter used to enable his arsenal of semiautomatic weapons to fire more rapidly.
“This is a common-sense piece of legislation,” he said. “This measure is going to save lives.”
The new state law makes it illegal to manufacture or sell bump stocks in Washington beginning July 1 and to own or possess them beginning July 1, 2019. After that latter date, they will be considered contraband and subject to seizure by authorities.
Under the new law, the state will establish a buy-back program between July 1 and June 30, 2019. A person will be able to turn in a bump stock to the Washington State Patrol or a local law enforcement agency and receive $150.
Lawmakers moved to outlaw the devices after the October mass slaying in which the shooter reportedly had 12 rifles outfitted with the plastic attachments, which cover a trigger opening and allow a gun to fire rapidly as the recoil “bumps” the trigger.
A few minutes after affixing his signature to Senate Bill 5992, Inslee told reporters he hoped lawmakers acted before the session ends Thursday on another bill that would treat semiautomatic rifles in much the same fashion as handguns.
Senate Bill 6620 would raise the age to purchase certain semiautomatic rifles or shotguns from 18 to 21, and to bring background check requirements for those guns mostly into line with those required to buy a handgun.
“I would hope that they can do it,” he said. “I think there is a fair chance.”
Much like the bump stock ban, the momentum behind this legislation is another mass slaying.
Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, had introduced a bill in January to raise the age for buying a semiautomatic rifle but it died in committee.
Then in February, a 19-year-old armed with a legally purchased semiautomatic rifle killed 17 people at a Florida high school.
The tragedy occurred a day after police arrested an Everett teen for allegedly planning to shoot up ACES High School in south Everett with military-style semiautomatic rifles legally purchased in Snohomish County, records show.
Frockt drew up a new version of his bill and added provisions to boost school safety programs. By Tuesday afternoon it had reached the Senate floor where Democratic and Republican senators had put forth two dozen amendments.
Frockt said the “vast majority” of his caucus wants to put the bill on the floor “and see what happens.”
“President Trump is talking about strengthening background checks and that’s what this bill does,” he said. “I think the people are not going to be happy if we sit around and do nothing.”
Students from several Western Washington high schools descended upon the Capitol to urge lawmakers to pass it.
“We’re all supporters of gun control,” said Kyler Parris, a Bothell High School senior and an organizer of the March for Lives rally in Seattle on March 24. “We’ve grown up with constant fear of the real possibility of a mass shooting in our school.”
He was among a group of students from the Northshore School District who delivered their message directly to several Snohomish County lawmakers.
One was Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, who told them he supports the bill. In a separate interview, he said he had to go through a background check and be 21 to buy his Glock.
“Why should anyone in the world be able to get an AR-15 without the same level of scrutiny?” he said.