There's no question that guns are the topic of the day after the Sandy Hook massacre. Last week, Seattle and King County announced a gun buyback program. On Sunday, Washington CeaseFire held a march on Westlake Center. Most interesting of all, the group is pushing a state ban on assault weapons. The A-list legislator who committed to sponsoring the bill: Senate minority leader and Seattle mayoral hopeful Ed Murray.
Get ready for a knock-down, drag-out battle.
Of course, there's been a lot of talk about reviving a national assault-weapons ban since the Connecticut tragedy. But Washington CeaseFire board president Ralph Fascitelli doesn't hold out much hope for that under a Republican-controlled House. Apparently, neither did New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; on Tuesday, New York's legislature passed an assault-weapons ban.
Fascitelli says the bill his group is pushing would be more effective than the federal ban passed by Congress in 1994, which expired 10 years later due to a sunset clause. The federal ban outlawed specific models of guns, and wasn't comprehensive. "The ban we're talking about would be feature-specific," Fascitelli says. "It would ban anything with a detachable clip that has more than 10 bullets."
Such guns allow for rapid firing of multiple bullets, making them the weapons frequently used in mass shootings, as at Sandy Hook. Shooter Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15 with clips that carried 30 rounds. Connecticut has an assault-weapons ban, but it doesn't include the AR-15 because of technicalities. The proposed Washington ban would.
Fascitelli contends the proposed ban would be effective in Washington for another reason: its physical size. "In D.C. or Chicago, you're close to other states," he says. If bans were enacted there, anyone who wanted an assault rifle could just take a quick ride to Maryland or Indiana. At least from the Seattle area, however, "it's basically 120 miles to another state," Fascitelli says.
Murray agreed to be a sponsor last Tuesday, according to Fascitelli, who observes that gun control is probably a "great issue" for him as a mayoral candidate. The senator couldn't be reached for comment.
Good thing for Murray that Alan Gottlieb won't be voting in the Seattle mayoral race. Gottlieb, the head of Bellevue's Second Amendment Foundation, tells SW that his group "would definitely fight" a state assault-weapons ban. Moreover, he opines, such a bill would be "DOA" because it would be "too extreme to pass in Washington state."
Yet even conservative TV host Bill O'Reilly, far from a gun-control zealot, questioned Gottlieb recently about why assault weapons are necessary. Interviewing Gottlieb shortly after the Connecticut tragedy, O'Reilly said that he believed "We the people need to protect ourselves." He said he would never go along with a ban on handguns. But as for military-style weapons, O'Reilly said, "I'm not sure we need that."
Gottlieb insisted we do: "I like to point out that on national television, on the networks, we saw filmed footage of Korean merchants using these type of firearms on top of their rooftops during the L.A. riots so that their places of business weren't looted and the arsonists didn't burn their places down; they went across the street. We watched during Hurricane Andrew people using these kind of firearms in front of their homes to stop looting." Gottlieb also said that assault weapons are used "in sport shooting very heavily."
Does that really mean people need such weapons? Couldn't they hunt with something else? Wouldn't a regular rifle also deter looting? The legislature now gets a chance to answer these questions.