OLYMPIA — Adam Cornell came to the state Capitol on Monday to tell state lawmakers about the worst day of his career as a deputy prosecutor in Snohomish County.
It happened July 30, 2016, when he was called to a home in Mukilteo where a young man had opened fire with a military-style rifle, killing three people and wounding a fourth.
“I saw with my own eyes, the human carnage from a jealous and angry 19-year-old man who had easy access to an assault rifle,” he told members of the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “These are weapons designed to inflict the most carnage possible and they do so very quickly.”
One bill would ban bump stocks, an after-market device that allows semiautomatic weapons to fire like fully automatic models. Another would limit the capacity of magazines to no more than 10 rounds of ammunition, and a third would require enhanced background checks for those trying to buy an assault-style weapon.
Under a fourth bill, gun owners would face stricter storage rules and could be liable if someone obtains one of their firearms and uses it to cause injury or death. The last proposal would allow cities and counties to enact their own gun control laws that could be stronger than state laws.
Fans and foes of the five bills arrived early and packed the hearing room. Eventually 967 people signed in to either testify or share their view on one or more of the bills. Committee members said they received 1,500 emails on the subject as well.
Cornell, a candidate for Snohomish County prosecutor, said he backed banning bump stocks, limiting the capacity of magazines and requiring background checks that are already in place for handguns.
“It should not have been so easy for this angry 19-year-old to purchase an assault rifle, an assault rifle that he didn’t intend to use for hunting animals,” he said, referring to the Mukilteo killer. “It was an assault rifle that he used with the intention of hunting humans.”
Much of the debate centered on the ban on bump stocks and magazine capacity limits. Opponents contended assault-style weapons are unfairly targeted for regulation as they are involved in fewer violent crimes than other weapons.
And they said a limit on magazine size would hurt many gun owners because many standard semiautomatic handguns — which they said are among the most popular firearms — are equipped with magazines exceeding 10 rounds.
“Treating semiautomatic firearms and standard capacity magazines differently under state law will do nothing to impact crime in this state,” said Keely Hopkins, state liaison for the National Rifle Association. “But it will only limit law-abiding gun owners and their ability to utilize them for self defense purposes.”
Monday’s hearing marked a watershed of sorts for Democrats and the governor.
With Republicans controlling the Senate the past five years, there have not been hearings or action on most gun-related measures. The Democrat-controlled House didn’t pass many bills either as party leaders said it seemed pointless to do so knowing the fate of the bills in the Senate.
“Today is different,” Renee Hopkins, chief executive officer of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, declared at a midday news conference.
But, she added, there’s a great deal of hard work ahead as the “gun lobby is going all in” to block the legislation.
Sen. Jamie Pedersen, chairman of the Senate panel, scheduled a committee vote Tuesday on the bill banning bump stocks. He did not indicate when the other bills might be acted on.
Feb. 2 is the last day to act on policy bills introduced in this committee. The last scheduled day of session is March 8.