NEWS GLEAMS | Assault Weapons Ban Clears Washington State Senate

A roundup of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!

curated by Vee Hua 華婷婷

✨Gleaming This Week✨

Federal Judges in Texas and Washington State Issue Contradictory Rulings on FDA-Approved Abortion Drug

On Friday, Apri 7, two contradictory rulings by federal judges in Texas and Washington State call into question the future availability of the Food and Drug Administration-approved drug, mifepristone, which is one of the two drugs used for medication abortions.

Mifepristone is an oral medication that can be ordered through the mail and, according to the FDA, “blocks a hormone called progesterone that is needed for a pregnancy to continue,” when used in tandem with misoprostol. It has been approved and made widely available on the market since September 2000, and has been deemed safer than Tylenol.

In Amarillo, Texas, the preliminary decision to suspend the FDA’s approval of mifepristone was given by U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, who is known for being among the most conservative district court judges in the country. He sided with anti-abortion medical groups in saying that the FDA’s approval of the pills and their decision to allow them to be “prescribed via telemedicine, sent by mail and dispensed at retail pharmacies, [is] unlawful,” according to Politico.

On the same day, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice from Spokane, Washington, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2011, issued an opposing ruling. The case filed by plaintiffs consisting of attorney generals from more than a dozen states — including Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaiʻi, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia — called to affirm the “FDA’s original conclusion that mifepristone is safe and effective, preserv[e] the status quo by enjoining any actions by Defendants to remove this critical drug from the market, and enjoin the necessary and burdensome January 2023 restrictions.” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum are co-leads on the lawsuit and first filed it in February 2023.

The Texas ruling does not take effect until later this week, as it gives the FDA a requisite week to appeal. On Friday evening, the Department of Justice filed an appeal which will delay the decision’s impacts. Many suspect that the case may go to the Supreme Court due to the contradictory rulings, which is what many anti-abortion groups hoped for. The preliminary injunction in the Washington case should, for the time being, allow those particular states to access the drug until a higher-level decision is made.

Since it was approved by the FDA in 2000, mifepristone is regularly reviewed and regulated through the FDA’s Mifepristone Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) Program. REMS is used to, among other things, “mitigate the risk of serious complications associated with mifepristone when used for medical termination of pregnancy through ten weeks gestation by … requiring that prescribers have the necessary qualifications to assess whether patients are appropriate candidates for the drug and to provide necessary intervention in case of complications … ensuring that mifepristone is only dispensed by certified pharmacies or by or under the supervision of certified prescribers.”

Photo depicting the Washington State Capitol building exterior on a gray day.
Image of the Washington State Capitol building is attributed to SounderBruce (under a Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0 license).

Assault Weapons Ban Clears Washington State Senate

In a 27-21 vote, House Bill 1240, which prohibits the “manufacture, import, distribut[ion], s[ale], or offer for sale any assault weapon,” with the exception of armed forces and law enforcement,  passed the Washington State Senate on Saturday, April 8. The bill passed the state House last month in a 55-42 vote, but given amendments by the Senate, must return to the House for final approval on language. The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, who has expressed support for the ban.

“Senate Republicans pushed back against the bill with 20 amendments, but as the minority, only two passed,” reports King 5 News. “A floor amendment allows for gun manufacturers to sell inventory already in stock prior to Jan. 1, 2023, and only to out-of-state clientele, for 90 days after the bill goes into effect.”

The highly detailed bill lists out the makes and models of specific semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns to be banned, and also defines it as those of a certain size, incorporating conversion kits, and with certain features or capacities. “Exceptions are included for those who inherit an assault weapon, and the bill would not regulate possession for Washingtonians who currently own an assault weapon,” notes the Olympian.

If signed into law, Washington State will join a number of other states in banning assault weapons. Others include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaiʻi, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia. Previously, Washington had regulations on assault weapons but not outright bans.

According to Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Washington State “had the 12th-lowest gun death rates in the country and supplied crime guns to other states at the 14th-lowest rate” in 2020. It has also passed other laws such as voter-approved ballot measures in 2016 and 2017 which “enacted universal background checks and an extreme risk protection law,” as well as a 2018 voter-approved measure that enacted a child access prevention law and raised the minimum age for the purchase of semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21.

House Bill 1240 was sponsored by Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds) and co-sponsored by 25 Democratic representatives in the House.

Photo depicting an area of Mount Rainier National Park with the mountain reflected in a pond of water and pink flowers blooming in the foreground.
Mount Rainier National Park. (Photo: Jaidev Vella)

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