NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Tuesday, April 25th, 2023

DONE! Governor Inslee signs assault weapons ban and two more gun safety bills into law

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.

Last month, we found that over­all sup­port for an assault weapons ban had slight­ly increased, from 56% to 58%, a very encour­ag­ing devel­op­ment.

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%

Polling methodology

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!

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