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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2 Comments

  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