Semi-automatic rifles fill a wall on Oct. 2, 2018, at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Washington. (AP Photo / Elaine Thompson, File)

Semi-automatic rifles fill a wall on Oct. 2, 2018, at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Washington. (AP Photo / Elaine Thompson, File)

WA Senate panel OKs assault weapon ban, a day after Nashville shooting

Democrats overrode Republican objections, pushing the prohibition on many semiautomatic weapons a step closer to becoming law.

OLYMPIA — A bill outlawing sale of assault weapons passed a critical test in the state Senate on Tuesday, moving a step closer to becoming law this year.

The Democrat-sponsored legislation banning the manufacture, distribution and sale of certain semiautomatic firearms passed the Senate Law and Justice Committee on a party line vote.

In passing House Bill 1240, Democrats cited Monday’s slaying of three students and three adults at a school in Nashville, Tennessee, as a reason to impose the prohibition.

“One thing constant in all of the tragedies is the gun,” said Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue. “This is a step forward for public safety. It’s a step where we are going to put kids before killers.”

Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, D-Tacoma, read the names of the three children and three adults and noted two guns used in the shooting — which were legally purchased — are banned by the bill.

“I am here as a mother of small children that fears every day that moment when my kid is going to come and ask me why they are preparing for the next mass shooting,” she said. “I know we all grieve for those children. We have an opportunity to do more today than share thoughts and prayers.”

The bill was sent to the Rules Committee and could reach the Senate floor for a vote in the next two weeks.

“I am very confident we can get it off the floor given the number of mass shootings in the country. We’ve got to do something,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, the committee chair, following the meeting . “This is a smart strategy to protect all of Washington, especially the children.”

Republicans submitted 17 amendments, including one to compile data on injuries and deaths associated with the use of assault weapons in 2022 and again in 2024. None passed.

“There is a problem we all want to solve,” said Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro Woolley, who serves on the committee. But the Republican approach, he said, is focusing resources on curbing lawlessness and ensuring those in need of mental health services are unable to acquire weapons.

“It’s not the instrument,” he said, referring to the gun. “It’s the person using the instrument.”

Sixty-one specific firearms, defined broadly as semiautomatic pistols and semiautomatic rifles with detachable ammunition magazines, would be outlawed. Among them are AK-47s in all forms, Uzi 9 mm carbines, AR-15s, M16s and Beretta AR70 and S70 semiautomatics.

House Bill 1240 contains exceptions for manufacture and sale to law enforcement and the military. It does not bar the possession of assault weapons.

It passed the state House on a 55-42 vote on March 8.

If the Senate approves a version with any changes — the committee did make one revision Tuesday — the House will need to concur before the legislation can be delivered to Gov. Jay Inslee for signing.

This is the seventh straight year Democratic lawmakers sought such a ban. The House vote marked the first time a version passed either legislative chamber. Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Inslee requested the bill.

Eight states have passed laws similar to what legislators are considering. To date, those have withstood legal challenge. If Washington enacts a ban, it will almost certainly be challenged in court, Ferguson has said.

Also Tuesday, the committee approved legislation requiring a person complete a firearms safety training program before they can acquire a gun. It also imposes a 10-day waiting period that would start on the day the dealer submits a request to the Washington State Patrol for a background check of the customer.

House Bill 1143 also passed on a party-line vote. It too goes to the Senate Rules Committee.

Meanwhile, in the House, a third bill aimed at curbing gun-related violence is making its way through the process.

Senate Bill 5078 creates a path to holding gun makers and sellers accountable if one of their products harms someone. It has advanced out of the Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee.

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

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