STATEMENT: Republican senators say banning specific firearms won’t make Washington measurably safer

Apr 8, 2023

OLYMPIA… All members of the Senate Republican Caucus voted against a bill passed today by majority Democrats to ban a specific group of semi-automatic firearms in Washington.

The legislation, approved on a 27-21 vote, would prohibit the sale, offer of sale, manufacture, import, and distribution of modern sporting rifles, which Democrats call “assault weapons.” House Bill 1240 would allow those who own such firearms to keep them.

Several Republican senators say banning a particular kind of firearm won’t make a meaningful difference in restoring public safety in Washington communities, which is a Republican priority this session.

From Sen. Lynda Wilson of Vancouver:

“It’s absolutely wrong to limit the firearm choices for women who are in abusive relationships and want the ability to defend themselves in what could be timely life-or-death situations.

“On top of that, this legislation clearly violates our state and federal constitutions, which is why it will end up in court immediately. But even if it was constitutional, a ban like this fails to get at the gang- and drug-related violence in our communities, the extreme mental-health issues, or the suicides that account for 75 percent of deaths caused by firearms.

“The state’s new Office of Firearm Safety admits stolen guns are tied to many of the shootings in our communities, yet today the Senate Democrats rejected the amendment I proposed that would criminalize the theft of these particular firearms That makes zero sense.”

From Sen. Judy Warnick of Moses Lake:

“A mentally stable person should never be able to go into a school, mall, music festival, movie theater, or nightclub and take the lives of innocent people. Republicans have consistently supported legislative efforts to increase access to behavior-health treatment. When this anti-gun legislation fails to reduce violence, what will the majority party try next? At this rate they’ll be working to ban more kinds of firearms, from law-abiding gun owners.

“As the grandmother of several students, I believe young people in our schools are more at risk of being harmed by exposure to fentanyl than by one of the firearms mentioned in this legislation. If the majority wants to protect children, it should work on keeping fentanyl and other lethal drugs out of our schools.”

From Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center:

“As a former teacher I know how vulnerable our schools are to an attack by someone like the Nashville shooter. The ‘gun-free zone’ signs don’t work, which is why the work group on mass shootings created by the Legislature several years ago recommended that schools be remodeled to make them less appealing as targets. The Legislature should be leading on that, as it’s the aspect we have a chance of controlling.

“This legislation also does nothing to address the epidemic of auto thefts that harmed a member of my family, or the rampant drug overdoses and street-level shootings that are hurting families and communities statewide. If someone commits a crime with a stolen firearm from the list in this bill, I believe the penalty should be stronger. The Democrats refused to consider my amendment to that effect, which calls their true agenda into question.

“Law-abiding citizens are finding it harder to defend themselves against violent criminals. For a woman, a firearm can be the equalizer that allows her to defend herself against or escape from a larger or more powerful attacker. This bill would wrongly limit that woman’s choice for self-defense.”

From Sen. Shelly Short of Addy:

“When the Democratic majority imposed limits on firearm magazines a year ago, the claim was they would save lives, yet the shootings are increasing. It seems they are not willing to wait and see whether that is true. A firearm that has an adjustable stock is easier for a petite person like me to fire accurately. That feature alone would get it banned under this legislation.

“They also don’t seem to understand that some semi-automatics look more modern than others but none fires more than once each time the trigger is pulled.  What is it going to take to get the majority to stop blaming the firearm and start focusing on the person who chooses to pull the trigger?”

Because HB 1240 was amended by the Senate, it must return to the House for consideration of the changes.