Wash. AG introduces bills to ban sale, enhance background checks for military-style firearms


File photo: The AR in AR-15 does not stand for assault rifle. It stands for ArmaLite, which is the name of the company that developed the weapon in the 1950s.
© 2017 Cox Media Group.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the introduction of two bills aimed at reducing deadly mass shootings.

Here are a summary of the two bills (scroll down to read more):

  • A previously announced proposal to ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
  • A second, alternative bill enhancing background checks and raising the minimum age required to buy such weapons and magazines.

Ban on sale of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines

Ferguson announced the proposal on a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in September. He promised at the time that he would submit it in the 2017 session.

>> Related: Washington AG proposes ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines

Ferguson’s proposed legislation has two key elements:

  • A ban on semiautomatic weapons with military-style features that render them more easily concealable or more deadly; and
  • A limit on magazine capacity — currently unlimited under Washington law — to a maximum of 10 rounds of ammunition.


The bill would ban weapons like the AR-15 used to kill three teens and wound another at a party in Mukilteo in July.

However, the AR in the AR-15 name does not stand for “assault rifle.” The weapon was created by ArmaLite. 

KIRO 7 News asked the attorney general's office why the AR-15 falls under the proposal. A spokesman wrote: 

"Weapons like the AR-15 would be banned as a semiautomatic rifle with the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and one or more of the military-style features listed in the bill.  A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon — part of the AR-15 design — is one such feature."

The full definition of assault weapon is available in the attorney general office’s draft legislation here

“The [July 2016] tragedy in Mukilteo drives home the need to act with urgency to end the availability of weapons designed with only one purpose — to kill people,” Ferguson said in September. I have a duty to protect the public, as well as uphold the constitution. My proposal will ban some of the deadliest weapons, while respecting the Second Amendment right to bear arms.”

Pictures of three victims in the triple murder.
© 2017 Cox Media Group.

>> Assault weapon vs. assault rifle: What is the difference?

Ferguson’s proposal targets only sales, grandfathering current gun ownership. The legislation would not require registration of existing weapons.

The proposal will be modeled after successful assault weapon laws in other states, such as New York and Connecticut. The courts have determined these states’ bans to be constitutional.

Enhanced Assault Weapon Background Check

Ferguson’s proposed second bill would create a new license to purchase and possess assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“I am working hard to advance my proposal to ban assault weapons in the legislature, and that effort will continue,” Ferguson said in a news release on Monday. “In the meantime, I hope we can pass enhanced background checks in this legislative session with strong bipartisan support.”

>>VIDEO: Gun sales of AR-15 in the state

Similar to a Concealed Pistol License (CPL), Ferguson’s proposed license limits assault weapons ownership to those over 21 years of age. The current minimum age to purchase an assault weapon is 18. Allen Ivanov, the accused perpetrator of the July 2016 Mukilteo shootings, was 19 when he purchased the AR-15 he allegedly used to murder three former classmates and wound another.

Gun shop owner weighs in on proposed assault weapons ban

Diana Pinto, the owner of Pinto’s Gun Shop, told KIRO 7 News in September assault weapons may be getting banned for the wrong reasons.

“They look bad, they look scary. And so that’s what they kind of hone in on, when they don’t realize that again, there’s a lot of firearms out there that maybe don’t look as scary, but they’re just as deadly. They can have as many rounds,” she said.

Pinto would rather see a focus on preventing those who are mentally ill from possessing any guns at all.

“If they can’t get an assault weapon, they would probably get something else, which is horrible. But stop that person from getting something – not just limiting access to one avenue,” Pinto said.

During the 90s, there was a national ban on assault weapons as well as a limit to 10 rounds of ammunition. Pinto said she felt that ban did not have a significantly positive effect.

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