OLYMPIA — Washington edged closer this week to outlawing the sale and possession of devices known as bump stocks that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire like fully automatic models.
But it does not appear the Legislature will act this session to limit the size of ammunition magazines, conduct background checks of those buying assault-style weapons or punish those who fail to safely store their firearms.
On Thursday, a bill prohibiting bump-stock devices cleared the Senate on a 29-20 vote as four Republicans joined the majority Democrats to pass it. The measure moves to the House where it is given a good chance of passage.
Senate Bill 5992 would ban the manufacture and sale of the after-market devices starting July 1. It makes it illegal to own or possess them beginning July 1, 2019.
“After that, it is contraband and subject to seizure,” said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, who as chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee shepherded it through the chamber.
As originally written, the bill targeted a wide array of “trigger modification devices.” The version approved Thursday focuses solely on “bump-fire stock” which is defined as a “butt stock designed to be attached to a semiautomatic firearm” to enable an increased rate of fire, simulating a fully automatic firearm. The purpose of the device is to cover the trigger opening, allowing the gun to fire rapidly as the recoil “bumps” the trigger.
Stephen Paddock, the gunman accused of killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 others attending an outdoor concert in Las Vegas last year, had 12 rifles outfitted with such devices.
Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, who opposed the original bill, crafted the new text then helped pass it.
“Narrowing the bill made a lot of sense to me,” he said Friday. “This puts (the devices) in the same category as machine guns.”
Pedersen worked with Zeiger on the language. Getting Republican support is pivotal to the bill’s chances of advancing in the House, he said.
“This bill was always about banning bump stocks and that’s what the bill does. I don’t have any problem with that,” Pedersen said.
Democratic Sens. Maralyn Chase, of Edmonds, Marko Liias, of Lynnwood, Steve Hobbs, of Lake Stevens, Guy Palumbo, of Maltby, and John McCoy, of Tulalip, voted for the bill. Republican Sens. Barbara Bailey, of Oak Harbor, and Keith Wagoner, of Sedro-Woolley, voted no.
“When something terrible happens we always feel like we must do something,” Wagoner said in the floor debate Thursday. “This is just a reaction that is not going to solve the problem.”
Meanwhile, four other high-profile gun-related bills are languishing in the Law and Justice Committee.
One would limit the capacity of magazines to no more than 10 rounds of ammunition and another would require enhanced background checks for those trying to buy an assault- style weapon.
Under a third 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.
When asked if the panel would get to vote on them, Pedersen said, “I don’t think so, not this year.”
The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday held hearings on its version of bills dealing with high capacity ammunition magazines, enhanced background checks and local gun control statutes. No action on them has been scheduled.
The last scheduled day of the legislative session is March 8.