Sign calling for a ban on assault weapons
A sign calling for a ban on assault weapons, captured at the March for Our Lives 2022 in Washington, D.C. by Victoria Pickering.

Wash­ing­ton will soon become the tenth state in the nation to ban mil­i­tary-grade assault weapons, in a water­shed, crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant vic­to­ry for gun safety.

Today, the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and Sen­ate came to an agree­ment on mutu­al­ly accept­able final lan­guage for House Bill 1240, which pro­hibits the man­u­fac­ture, impor­ta­tion, dis­tri­b­u­tion, sell­ing, and offer­ing for sale of assault weapons. The bill now heads to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee for signature.

Request­ed by Inslee and Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, the bill was prime spon­sored by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Strom Peter­son (D‑21st Dis­trict: Sno­homish Coun­ty). Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Kud­er­er (D‑48th Dis­trict: Belle­vue, Red­mond, Kirk­land, the Points com­mu­ni­ties) spon­sored the Sen­ate com­pan­ion, SB 5265.

Twice in the past twelve months, NPI’s research has found a major­i­ty strong­ly sup­port­ive of ban­ning assault weapons: 56% last June and 58% this March. We unveiled the first of those find­ings at a press con­fer­ence with Fer­gu­son, Kud­er­er, State Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jami­la Tay­lor, and Emi­ly Cantrell of the Alliance for Gun Respon­si­bil­i­ty. Weeks lat­er, our research was cor­rob­o­rat­ed by Sur­veyUSA and its part­ners in a dif­fer­ent statewide sur­vey.

“Weapons designed to be used on a mil­i­tary field shouldn’t have a place on the streets of Wash­ing­ton,” said Zach Elmore, a vol­un­teer with the Wash­ing­ton chap­ter of Moms Demand Action, which has been lob­by­ing for the bill.

“Assault weapons are fre­quent­ly used in mass shoot­ings and research shows that lim­it­ing access to these firearms could reduce mass shoot­ing deaths. We are proud to stand with our gun sense cham­pi­ons in the Leg­is­la­ture, and thank our lead­ers for tak­ing swift action and send­ing this bill to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s desk.”

“Each round fired from an assault weapon can have up to four times greater muz­zle ener­gy than a bul­let fired from a hand­gun,” not­ed a state­ment from Every­town For Gun Safe­ty about the neces­si­ty of HB 1240. “Each round can inflict greater dam­age to the human body than a round from a typ­i­cal hand­gun — and these guns can fire many of these high-pow­ered rounds extreme­ly fast. Pro­hibit­ing the man­u­fac­ture and sale of assault weapons in the state is an impor­tant first step to elim­i­nat­ing the sup­ply of these excep­tion­al­ly dead­ly firearms.

At the behest of the gun lob­by, Repub­li­cans vocif­er­ous­ly opposed HB 1240 at every step of the leg­isla­tive process, offer­ing all sorts of tired and ridicu­lous argu­ments. (Our favorite is the absurd claim that crim­i­nals won’t fol­low the law, so it’s not worth pass­ing. Why have any laws at all, then?)

It was up to Democ­rats to get the job done. They deliv­ered, with majori­ties in both cham­bers stand­ing up to the NRA and its local sycophants.

The final vote in the Sen­ate was as follows:

Roll Call
HB 1240
Firearms/assault weapons
3rd Read­ing & Final Pas­sage as Amend­ed by the Senate

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)

Sen­a­tor Kevin Van De Wege was the only “nay” vote on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic side.

The final vote in the House was as follows:

Roll Call
HB 1240
Firearms/assault weapons
Final Pas­sage as Amend­ed by the Senate

Yeas: 56; Nays: 42

Vot­ing Yea: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Alvara­do, Bate­man, Berg, Bergquist, Berry, Bronoske, Callan, Chap­man, Chopp, Cortes, Davis, Doglio, Don­aghy, Duerr, Enten­man, Fari­var, Fey, Fitzgib­bon, Fos­se, Good­man, Gregerson, Hack­ney, Hansen, Klo­ba, Leav­itt, Lekanoff, Macri, Mena, Mor­gan, Orms­by, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Paul, Peter­son, Pol­let, Ramel, Ramos, Reed, Reeves, Ric­cel­li, Ryu, San­tos, Senn, Sim­mons, Slat­ter, Springer, Stearns, Stonier, Street, Tay­lor, Thai, Tharinger, Tim­mons, Walen, Wylie, Jinkins

Vot­ing Nay: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Abbarno, Barkis, Barnard, Caldier, Cham­bers, Chan­dler, Cheney, Chris­t­ian, Con­nors, Cor­ry, Cou­ture, Dent, Dye, Eslick, Goehn­er, Gra­ham, Grif­fey, Har­ris, Hutchins, Jacob­sen, Klick­er, Kretz, Low, May­cum­ber, McClin­tock, McEn­tire, Mos­bruck­er, Orcutt, Robert­son, Rude, Rule, San­dlin, Schmick, Schmidt, Shavers, Steele, Stokes­bary, Volz, Walsh, Waters, Wilcox, Ybarra

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Clyde Shavers and Ali­cia Rule, both front­line mem­bers fac­ing tough reelec­tion fights, were the only “nay” votes on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic side. Their seat­mates Dave Paul and Joe Tim­mons decid­ed to vote for the legislation.

Wash­ing­ton cur­rent­ly ranks tenth in terms of the strength of its gun safe­ty laws, accord­ing to Every­town For Gun Safe­ty, behind Ore­gon, Mary­land, Illi­nois, Mass­a­chu­setts, Con­necti­cut, New Jer­sey, Hawaii, New York, and Cal­i­for­nia — all Demo­c­ra­t­ic-run states. The suc­cess of HB 1240 and oth­er gun safe­ty bills adopt­ed this ses­sion could pro­pel Wash­ing­ton up in the rankings.

Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon’s neigh­bor Ida­ho is con­sid­ered a “nation­al fail­ure” and ranked forty-eighth out of fifty, with only Arkansas and Mis­sis­sip­pi far­ing worse.

Pres­i­dent Joe Biden usu­al­ly offers a state­ment of con­grat­u­la­tions through his com­mu­ni­ca­tions office when a state acts to ban assault weapons — we’ll see if the White House offers a com­ment on the pas­sage of HB 1240.

We thank the Alliance for Gun Respon­si­bil­i­ty, Every­town, Moms Demand Action, Brady, and every­one who worked to get HB 1240 across the fin­ish line. Repub­li­cans and gun wor­ship­pers can threat­en and file all the law­suits they want. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son is ready for them. It’s not pos­si­ble to know what the future holds, but we do at least know that HB 1240 will be well defended.

Gun vio­lence is pre­ventable, and we must have the courage to stand up to the gun lob­by. Our lead­er­ship on gun safe­ty can save lives and pro­tect communities.

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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