by Ronnie Estoque
On April 25, Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1240, which made Washington the 10th state in the U.S. to ban assault weapons. House Bill 1143 and Senate Bill 5078, both gun reform legislation, were also signed by Gov. Inslee in the presence of gun violence survivors and victims’ families.
HB 1143 will require purchasers to complete a safety training program and a background check and wait for 10 days prior to obtaining a firearm from a gun dealer or through transferring. SB 5078 elevates the level of accountability on firearm manufacturers, importers, distributors, and sellers for harm or deaths caused.
Dylan O’Connor serves as the government affairs director at the Alliance for Gun Responsibility (AGR), which was heavily involved in the policy development process through the legislative session.
“We’re floored by having those three bills all together, signed into law,” said O’Connor, who joined the AGR right before the Parkland shooting. “It has been such an honor to get to work with the survivors, folks who’ve lost their loved ones to a myriad of kinds of gun violence, ranging from interpersonal gun violence to mass shootings and to suicides.”
According to O’Connor, the AGR has worked with youth-led organizations, such as March For Our Lives, Team ENOUGH, and Seattle Student Union, throughout the advocacy process of these bills.
“In November, a 17-year-old student was shot and killed on a Seattle high school campus. We were terrified. So many of us across the district had friends and loved ones that were locked in their classrooms fearing for their lives. We turned our anger into action,” the Seattle Student Union executive board said in a press release on April 25. “Led by the Seattle Student Union, thousands of students walked out of school the following week and protested in front of Seattle City Hall and last month the Seattle Student Union organized a student caravan to the state capitol to demand the state ban assault weapons, implement training requirements and waiting periods, and hold gun manufacturers accountable.”
O’Connor believes HB 1240 and HB 1143 will address the issue of easy firearm accessibility in Washington, and that SB 5078 will lead to a cultural shift in the firearm industry with the elevated accountability from both the attorney general and private right of action from victims.
“In too many places in the country, it’s just too easy to get a gun,” O’Connor said. “And there’s not strong enough comprehensive background checks, and there’s not a mental health check, and waiting periods are too short.”
O’Connor also adds that Extreme Risk Protection Orders can serve as a resource in addressing mass shootings by directing firearm owners who pose a danger to themselves or others to surrender their weapons.
“There’s some holdouts on the policy agenda we’d really love to see addressed in the future, one being preemption. Here in Washington State, the state constitution currently prohibits local municipalities and jurisdictions from enacting their own firearms-related regulations and ordinances,” O’Connor said. “We’re also having some conversations about, you know, implementing a full permit to purchase system here in Washington State, particularly after the background check.”
Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.
📸 Featured image by Dean zangirolami/Shutterstock.com.
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