NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Attorney General Bob Ferguson proposes legislation to ban sale of assault weapons

Vowing to protect lives and strengthen the state’s many diverse communities, Washington’s chief legal officer announced today he will be proposing legislation to ban the sale of assault weaponry — in other words, guns designed for the sole purpose of killing large numbers of human beings.

The agency request legislation, which already has the support of lawmakers like Senators David Frockt and Kevin Ranker, will have two key provisions:

  • 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 recent 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 a statement. “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.”

Ferguson’s office is still working on the specific wording of the legislation, and an initial bill draft is expected to be completed by sometime in December.

NPI strongly believes that military grade weapons have no place in our communities or on our streets, and we applaud AG Ferguson for stepping forward to propose this legislation and for committing to advocating for it until it becomes law.

Hardware designed for military use should not be sold or be available to civilians, period, and that includes AR-15 style semiautomatic long guns. Responsible gun enthusiasts understand that such weapons have no legitimate purpose other than killing large numbers of humans. They are not needed for hunting or self-defense. There’s no reason they should be available to civilians.

Sadly, extremist outfits like the National Rifle Association are opposed to gun sense measures like what Ferguson is proposing because they wrongly believe that our country should be as weaponized and trigger-happy as possible. They have claimed the text of the Second Amendment supports their position, but it does not.

From listening to the NRA’s talking heads on TV and radio, you might be led to believe that the language of the Second Amendment is the following:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

But actually, it is this:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

If you look at all the drafts of the Second Amendment — which James Madison was primarily responsible for — you’ll see the words “well regulated militia” over and over again. It was an essential element in all the drafts.

We agree with Justice John Paul Stevens: a proper interpretation of the Second Amendment takes into account its first thirteen words:

When each word in the text is given full effect, the Amendment is most naturally read to secure to the people a right to use and possess arms in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia. So far as appears, no more than that was contemplated by its drafters or is encompassed within its terms. Even if the meaning of the text were genuinely susceptible to more than one interpretation, the burden would remain on those advocating a departure from the purpose identified in the preamble and from settled law to come forward with persuasive new arguments or evidence.

Those who claim the language of the Second Amendment bars the federal government or any state government from passing gun safety laws are wrong: it does not. Guns making taking a life easy, even from a distance. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can all be snuffed out with a single shot.

It is therefore imperative that we as a society insist and demand that any civilian who wishes to buy firearms pass a background check, understand how to secure their weapon, and be prohibited from owning weapons designed for military use.

Attorney General Ferguson’s legislation only limits magazine capacity and bans the sale of deadly assault weapons in our state. It doesn’t require those who own such weapons already to register them, or give them up.

Nevertheless, Ferguson’s bill will make our communities much safer than they are today. We strongly support the legislation and will lobby for its passage.

POSTSCRIPT: KING5 has visuals from Ferguson’s press conference.

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  1. Your opinion like that of Justice Stevens is total and complete hogwash. This Washingtonian will be keeping any and all firearms and will most likely be expanding my collection in addition my family will inherit them regardless of what you or others desire. In the meantime, try reading Article 1 Section 24 of the State Constitution as “impaired” is an even higher standard of negative Liberty (as in a restriction on government) than infringed is.

    # by Marc :: September 9th, 2016 at 11:46 AM
  2. We’re familiar with the provisions of the Washington State Constitution, Marc, as well as the federal Constitution. So is Attorney General Ferguson. He, unlike Tim Eyman, is quite capable of writing constitutional legislation. State attorneys will work with lawmakers to ensure the bill that gets introduced is compliant with Article I, Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution and the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    Bans on the sale of assault weapons have been enacted successfully by other states and left untouched by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected challenges to assault weapons bans in Connecticut and New York, in the aftermath of the shooting attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left 50 people dead.

    The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that upheld laws that were passed in response to another mass shooting involving a semi-automatic weapon, the elementary school attack in Newtown, Connecticut.

    The Supreme Court has repeatedly turned away challenges to gun restrictions since two landmark decisions that spelled out the right to a handgun to defend one’s own home.

    In Heller, Marc, the Supreme Court stated “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” and it is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever.” You should read that ruling — it came out of the conservative Roberts Court.

    If civilians can own any weapon made for war, they can own M1 Bazookas, FIM-92 Stingers, and other kinds of “arms” (multiple dictionaries define “arms” as simply meaning “weapons” — and Bazookas and Stingers are certainly weapons). AR-15 style gear isn’t needed for self defense or hunting, and should not be available to civilians, period.

    # by Andrew :: September 9th, 2016 at 12:22 PM