The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard SB 6620 on Tuesday Feb. 27. Photo by Taylor McAvoy

The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard SB 6620 on Tuesday Feb. 27. Photo by Taylor McAvoy

Lawmakers introduce new gun legislation late in session

If passed, the new law would allocate money to schools for emergency response and raise the age required to purchase assault-style weapons.

With less than two weeks left in the session, state lawmakers have introduced a new bill in response to the recent high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

SB 6620, and its companion in the House, HB 3004, introduced Friday, Feb. 23, would create a mechanism for students to report dangerous behavior and would require the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to allocate grants to school districts to implement emergency response systems.

It also raises the age to purchase an assault rifle from 18 to 21. The Parkland shooter was reported to be a 19-year-old who had legally purchased an AR-15 rifle.

And, in bringing back a debate from a previous bill, the new bill would require purchasers of such weapons to undergo a federal and state background check as well.

“You cannot really address this issue in full unless you do some reasonable things around these particular firearms that are being used over and over in mass killings,” said the senate bill’s prime sponsor and Vice Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee David Frockt, D-Seattle.

The bill was scheduled for a hearing with less than 24-hours notice and lawmakers voted to suspend the five-day public notice requirement, yet the Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing room was packed with people on both sides of the issue on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

The Alliance for Gun Responsibility, wearing orange, and gun rights activists packed the Senate Ways and Means hearing room. Photo by Taylor McAvoy

The Alliance for Gun Responsibility, wearing orange, and gun rights activists packed the Senate Ways and Means hearing room. Photo by Taylor McAvoy

According to Frockt, the new gun bill would allocate $700,000 in the operating budget to schools for implementation of response and reporting programs. The bill also raises the licensing fee for gun dealers from $125 to $150 per year.

Because the fee increase and the funding for the program would affect the budget, the bill can be moved through committee without the deadlines facing bills that have no impact on the budget.

“I think we’re in a real desperate situation and the public wants action and not just talk,” Frockt said.

Washington state has not been immune to gun violence. In July, 2016, a 19-year-old purchased an assault rifle legally from a Cabelas store and killed three people at a house party in Mukilteo.

Paul Kramer testified in support of the bill at its hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 27. He spoke about his son, Will, who was seriously injured in that shooting.

“Were this proposed bill in effect as law two years ago, the Mukilteo shooting wouldn’t have happened as it did,” he said.

“There was nothing marginal about those lives,” said Adam Cornell, a prosecuting attorney in Snohomish County. “And there was nothing marginal about the lives of those who died in Parkland and all the other mass shootings that have happened in this country and will continue to happen if we don’t do something about it.”

Washington state school shootings in recent years include one at Marysville Pilchuck High School in October 2014, when a student killed four others and himself, and another in at Freeman High School in September 2017, when a student killed one classmate and wounded three others.

Johna Munsen, an 18-year-old senior at Ingraham High School in Seattle and president of her school’s Junior State of America chapter, a political activism club, testified in support of the bill.

Johna Munsen, 18, a senior at Ingraham High School in Seattle testified at the hearing on Tuesday. The school is planning a walkout on March 14. Photo by Taylor McAvoy

Johna Munsen, 18, a senior at Ingraham High School in Seattle testified at the hearing on Tuesday. The school is planning a walkout on March 14. Photo by Taylor McAvoy

Now that conversations around school shootings are coming up more and more in national dialogue, she said, people are starting to take notice of student voices. Her school and others around the nation are planning a school walkout on March 14 to protest gun violence.

“The whole point of this movement is just common sense and preventing tragedy,” she said. “It’s not trying to take away the Second Amendment.”

The bill would infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners and ignores the fact that most shootings are committed with handguns, said Keely Hopkins, state liaison for the National Rifle Association.

“The folks most likely to be affected by this are the least likely to commit crimes,” said Brett Bass, a firearms instructor with the Bellevue Gun Club.

Gun regulations should be considered a separate issue from school safety measures, said Senator Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

“Banning long guns from the possession of 18 year olds is not going to solve this problem,” he said. “Better security is.”

Sheldon, one of the few rural Democrats in the state, said lawmakers are not considering the state’s rural constituency. He added that while the bill only affects those aged 18 to 20, it chips away at Second Amendment rights.

But the issues of school safety, education programs, and gun restrictions are appropriately coupled according to Jeoff Potter, CEO and Policy Director for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

“Components of this bill, whether it’s the school safety pieces, or the firearm pieces taken together as one single bill; they are the consensus for the position on firearms and safety in the country,” he said.

The bill has until March 8 to become law. The prime sponsor, Frockt, is optimistic that it has the support it needs to pass despite there being no Republican sponsors listed on the bill.

This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in Northwest

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

AG Ferguson wants to require law enforcement statewide to report all uses of deadly force

Report to Legislature recommends centralized, easily accessible statewide website on incidents

Stay local with summer travel plans | State Department of Health

Officials want people to limit cross-state travel to help slow spread of COVID-19

Public and private universities, colleges, technical schools, apprenticeship programs and similar schools and programs may resume general instruction, including in-person classes and lectures, starting Aug. 1. Pictured: The University of Washington-Bothell campus. File photo
Universities and colleges may reopen in fall, governor says

His order requires masks and physical distancing, among other measures, to help prevent infections.

A new measure from the King County Council could increase flexibility for businesses in rural areas of King County. File photo
County measure would increase flexibility for businesses in rural areas

Staff report Legislation the King County Council passed June 23 could lead… Continue reading

Changes coming to Port of Seattle Police Department

Hiring practices, commitment to diversity, use of force

During a recent training, South King Fire and Rescue members at Station 62 wear personal protective gear, which includes face masks, eye protection, gloves and gowns. Courtesy photo
Governor orders statewide use of face coverings in public

Jay Inslee says that until there is a vaccine, it’s the best weapon to stop the spread of COVID-19.

File photo/pexels.com
Renton man pleads guilty to one of state’s largest workers’ comp scams

The delivery driver was still working under his own name while receiving L&I pension, and owes the state almost $340,000.

King County Board of Health declares racism a crisis

Racism was declared a public health crisis by King County’s Board of… Continue reading

State Capitol Building, Olympia, Washington. File photo
Tax collections tumble as state braces for huge budget hole

Inslee cancels pay raises for some execs and orders furloughs for workers as special session looms.

Kabal Gill, owner of East India Grill in Federal Way, wears gloves to hand over take-out orders at his restaurant on March 23. File photo
New guidelines for Phase 2 reopenings in King County

All workers will need to wear masks as restaurants, retail shops and other businesses reopen.

This undated file photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows CDC’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus. Courtesy photo
Inslee wants nursing home residents and staff tested by June 12

Governor says state will pay for test kits and personal protective equipment.