It’s a historic day in the State of Washington.
Today, during a ceremony in the statehouse in Olympia, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law three pivotal new gun safety laws: a ban on assault weapons, a permit-to-purchase requirement, and a duty to impose reasonable controls law that gun manufacturers, distributors, and sellers must abide by.
Flanked by lawmakers, activists, and staff, Inslee signed Senate Bill 5078, House Bill 1140, and House Bill 1143, prime sponsored by Jamie Pedersen/David Hackney, Strom Peterson/Patty Kuderer, and Liz Berry/Marko Liias, respectively. Pedersen, Peterson, and Berry offered remarks along with Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office requested each of the bills.
On behalf of the NPI team, I had the great honor of standing alongside representatives of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Moms Demand Action, Grandparents Against Gun Violence, and other allies as Governor Inslee made these bills part of the Revised Code of Washington.
The assault weapons ban (HB 1140) takes effect immediately, while SB 5078 will take effect on July 23rd. HB 1143 will take effect on January 1st, 2024.
“Today Washington State is putting the gun industry in its place and improving the health, safety and lives of our residents,” said Governor Inslee.
“I want to thank the many legislators and advocates who have worked for years to deliver some of these policies to the governor’s desk,” he added.
Shortly after the Governor took action, The White House issued a statement congratulating the State of Washington on the historic achievement.
“Today, Washington State has become the tenth state in the nation alongside Washington, D.C. to ban assault weapons and get weapons of war off America’s streets,” said Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement.
“President Biden commends the leadership of Washington Governor Jay Inslee, and legislative leaders, as well as the advocates, survivors, and elected officials who fought for years to make today a reality.”
“In so doing, they have made every community in the state – from Seattle to Spokane and everywhere in between – safer and more secure.”
NPI’s research has found strong public support for each of these bills.
Assault weapons ban (HB 1140)
In June of 2022, we announced at a press conference in Kent that a majority of Washington voters strongly support enacting an assault weapons ban.
We unveiled our finding with Attorney General Bob Ferguson, state lawmakers, and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility just days after the tragedy in Uvalde.
A few weeks later, our finding was corroborated by SurveyUSA and its partners (The Seattle Times, KING5, UW, and WSU) in a separate poll.
In both surveys, the question we asked was:
QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose banning the sale, transport, manufacture, or import of military-style assault weapons like the AR-15 rifle in Washington State?
- Support: 58%
- Strongly support: 51%
- Somewhat support: 7%
- Oppose: 40%
- Somewhat oppose: 8%
- Strongly oppose: 32%
- Not sure: 3%
Permit-to-purchase (HB 1143)
While the assault weapons ban is very popular, permit to purchase is even more so, with nearly seven out of ten likely 2024 voters supportive:
QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose enacting a permit-to-purchase law for firearms, which would require people who want to buy a gun to get fingerprinted, take a class in gun safety, and pass an enhanced background check first?
- Support: 68%
- Strongly support: 56%
- Somewhat support: 12%
- Oppose: 29%
- Somewhat oppose: 10%
- Strongly oppose: 19%
- Not sure: 3%
Duty to impose reasonable controls (SB 5078)
The Firearm Industry Responsibility & Gun Violence Victims’ Access to Justice Act has about as much support overall as the assault weapons ban, with little difference in terms of the intensity of support:
QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose allowing gun manufacturers and sellers to be sued in court if they fail to establish, implement, and enforce reasonable controls in the manufacture, sale, distribution, and marketing of guns to keep them out of the hands of dangerous individuals?
- Support: 59%
- Strongly support: 49%
- Somewhat support: 10%
- Oppose: 36%
- Somewhat oppose: 6%
- Strongly oppose: 30%
- Not sure: 4%
All of the above questions were asked as part of our winter 2023 statewide survey of the Washington State electorate. That survey was in the field from Tuesday, March 7th through Wednesday, March 8th, 2023. It consisted of interviews with 874 likely 2024 Washington State general election voters.
The poll utilizes a blended methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines (50%) and online answers from cell phone only respondents (50%).
It was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence interval.
Next: From the court of public opinion to the courts
These important new laws are all expected to face legal challenges from people who value guns and access to weapons of war more than the safety of their fellow Washingtonians. Attorney General Bob Ferguson and his team are expecting these lawsuits and will be prepared to defend against them.
Ferguson has experience responding to such lawsuits, having defended voter-approved initiatives like I‑594 and I‑1639 in the courts in years past. The Attorney General noted today that his team has repeatedly prevailed over the gun lobby and has a high degree of confidence in being able to do so again.
Congratulations to everyone who helped make these historic victories for gun safety possible!
As progressives, we know that gun violence is preventable. The experience of other advanced democracies has demonstrated that gun safety laws work, saving lives and preventing communities from being ripped apart by senseless tragedies. What’s more, we know that we aren’t alone in believing this. Our research is proof that. Support for gun safety laws spans the ideological spectrum. Many Republicans and most independents are united with nearly all Democratic voters in supporting laws like the three that Governor Jay Inslee signed today.
Thank you to every person and organization that stepped up to lobby for these bills. The letters you wrote, the calls you made, the testimony you offered, the organizing you did… it all made a difference. By working together, we’ve gone from being a state in which even many Democratic legislators once refused to buck the gun lobby to a state that is a national leader on gun safety. Hurrah!