Governor Jay Inslee with youth activists
Governor Jay Inslee with young gun safety activists (Photo: Alliance for Gun Responsibility)

Land­mark leg­is­la­tion request­ed by Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son and Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee that would sub­ject the gun indus­try to much need­ed account­abil­i­ty won approval in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate today by a vote of 28 to 21.

“The Firearm Indus­try Respon­si­bil­i­ty & Gun Vio­lence Vic­tims’ Access to Jus­tice Act ensures that firearms man­u­fac­tur­ers and sell­ers will face lia­bil­i­ty if they fail to estab­lish, imple­ment and enforce rea­son­able con­trols in the man­u­fac­ture, sale, dis­tri­b­u­tion and mar­ket­ing of firearms to keep them out of the hands of dan­ger­ous indi­vid­u­als,” Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son’s office says.

Prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Jamie Ped­er­sen, SSB 5078 would, as described in the non­par­ti­san staff report pre­pared for the sub­sti­tute ver­sion of the bill:

  • Require firearm indus­try mem­bers [man­u­fac­tur­ers, deal­ers] to estab­lish, imple­ment and enforce rea­son­able con­trols regard­ing the man­u­fac­ture, sale, dis­tri­b­u­tion, import, use, and mar­ket­ing of the firearm indus­try mem­bers’ firearm and firearm-relat­ed products.
  • Pro­hib­it firearm indus­try mem­bers from cre­at­ing or main­tain­ing a pub­lic nui­sance. [Nui­sance means a sub­stan­tial and unrea­son­able inter­fer­ence with the use and enjoy­ment of anoth­er per­son­’s property.]
  • Autho­rize the attor­ney gen­er­al to inves­ti­gate sus­pect­ed vio­la­tions of
    firearm indus­try mem­bers’ duties and to enforce actions against such firearm indus­try mem­bers.

SSB 5078 is one of three piv­otal gun safe­ty bills under con­sid­er­a­tion in this year’s ses­sion. The oth­ers are a pro­posed assault weapons ban and per­mit to purchase.

Adop­tion of this law would get rid of the legal shield that gun­mak­ers and gun deal­ers cur­rent­ly enjoy, improv­ing access to jus­tice for vic­tims of gun violence.

“This pol­i­cy will ensure that the gun indus­try is treat­ed like every oth­er indus­try and faces real con­se­quences for irre­spon­si­ble con­duct,” Fer­gu­son said. “Today’s impor­tant vote is a sig­nif­i­cant step toward improv­ing pub­lic safe­ty in Washington.”

“This leg­is­la­tion pro­vides account­abil­i­ty for a gun indus­try that has too often failed to take nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions to pre­vent guns from get­ting into the wrong hands,” Gov­er­nor Inslee said. “Indus­try neg­li­gence costs lives — this bill lets the indus­try know we won’t abide this sta­tus quo any longer.”

“We must ensure that firearms deal­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers are held account­able when they fail to keep weapons out of the hands of dan­ger­ous indi­vid­u­als,” Sen­a­tor Ped­er­sen (D‑43rd Dis­trict: Seat­tle) said. “Vic­tims of gun vio­lence in our state deserve access to jus­tice. It is past time for the gun indus­try to face real con­se­quences for irre­spon­si­ble sales and mar­ket­ing practices.”

SSB 5078 is sim­i­lar to leg­is­la­tion already adopt­ed in Delaware, New York, New Jer­sey, and Cal­i­for­nia that has with­stood legal chal­lenges from the right wing.

The roll call on SSB 5078 was as follows:

SB 5078
Firearm indus­try duties
3rd Read­ing & Final Passage

Yeas: 28; Nays: 21

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tors Bil­lig, Cleve­land, Con­way, Dhin­gra, Frame, Hasegawa, Hunt, Kauff­man, Keis­er, Kud­er­er, Liias, Lovelett, Lovick, Mul­let, Nguyen, Nobles, Ped­er­sen, Ran­dall, Robin­son, Rolfes, Sal­daña, Salomon, Shew­make, Stan­ford, Trudeau, Valdez, Well­man, Wil­son (Claire)

Vot­ing Nay: Sen­a­tors Boehnke, Braun, Dozi­er, For­tu­na­to, Gildon, Hawkins, Holy, King, MacEwen, McCune, Muz­za­ll, Pad­den, Rivers, Schoesler, Short, Tor­res, Van De Wege, Wag­oner, War­nick, Wil­son (Jeff), Wil­son (Lyn­da)

Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Kevin Van De Wege (D‑24th Dis­trict: Olympic Penin­su­la) vot­ed against the leg­is­la­tion. Oth­er­wise, the vote was along par­ty lines, with Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors sup­port­ive and Repub­li­cans opposed.

The bill now heads to the House for fur­ther consideration.

One of Van De Wege’s col­leagues from the 24th, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Steve Tharinger, is a spon­sor of the House com­pan­ion bill, HB 1130, which did not advance in that cham­ber (owing to the Sen­ate’s pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of SB 5078).

NPI thanks the Sen­ate for once again vot­ing to pro­tect our com­mu­ni­ties from the scourge of gun vio­lence. Mass shoot­ings and sui­cides com­mit­ted with a firearm are pre­ventable. New laws like SSB 5078 will save lives and ensure jus­tice for fam­i­lies trag­i­cal­ly afflict­ed by gun violence.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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