Republican Rep. Matt Shea speaks at a gun-rights rally, where many gathered in support of the embattled lawmaker, in Olympia on Friday. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

Republican Rep. Matt Shea speaks at a gun-rights rally, where many gathered in support of the embattled lawmaker, in Olympia on Friday. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

Lawmakers brace for political battle over bullets and AR-15s

Bills banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines will receive public hearings this week.

OLYMPIA — State lawmakers begin debate this week on a batch of proposed gun laws, including bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

A bill limiting the capacity of magazines sold in Washington to 10 rounds will be the subject of a public hearing Monday morning in the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

The next day, the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on legislation outlawing assault weapons and allowing cities and counties to adopt more restrictive gun regulations than the state’s. A hearing will also be held on the House bill prohibiting high capacity magazines.

With a short session and an election year, it’s uncertain which measures majority Democrats in the House and Senate are willing, and able, to push through.

“These are important discussions to have in our state given the epidemic of gun violence in our country,” said Rep. Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, chairwoman of the House panel.

The committee hearings follow a rally Friday that drew several hundred people, many packing a firearm, to the steps of the Capitol to demonstrate their opposition to any new gun restrictions.

They toted signs with slogans such as “Free People Own Guns, Enslaved People Don’t” and “Politicians Prefer Unarmed Subjects.” And they cheered loudly as speakers railed against any further encroachment of gun owners’ constitutional rights.

There are a lot of things coming up “to make every one of us felons … so we cannot bear arms in any way, shape or form,” said Ben Charles of Port Angeles, a member of the Lower Elwha KlallamTribe.

Republican Rep. Jim Walsh of Aberdeen told the enthusiastic crowd this is not a debate between Democrat and Republican, or the political left and right.

“It’s a matter of freedom versus tyranny,” he said. “You are the guardians of freedom. You are the sentinels of liberty.”

For Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, it’s about preventing shootings, like the one that occurred on a July night in 2016 in Mukilteo. That’s when a 19-year-old murdered three people and wounded one using an assault weapon bought at a local store.

Peterson is sponsoring the assault weapon ban bill as he has the past few years. He realizes success may elude him again.

“I keep introducing it knowing full well it will be a very hard bill to get to the governor’s desk,” he said Friday. “What are other options if we are not going to ban these weapons of war?”

For the fourth straight year, Attorney General Bob Ferguson is calling on lawmakers to pass a ban. This time, Gov. Jay Inslee is also requesting action.

“This is the time to take action on common sense measures that will save lives. We should be making it harder for those who want to inflict mass violence and destruction upon innocent people,” Inslee said in December.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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