Friends and family gather to remember the victims of the Mukilteo shooting. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

AG Ferguson Says There’s No Time to Wait for Assault Weapon Ban

“I just felt, ‘Well, screw it. If I believe it, I should propose it.’”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson insists politics isn’t driving his call for a ban on the sale of semiautomatic military-style assault weapons in the 2017 legislative session.

It is impatience, and frustration, at a trail of tragedy that in the past year wound through an office celebration in San Bernardino, a night club in Orlando and, in July, a house party in Mukilteo.

“I just came to the conclusion that this was an issue that you see sometimes where the people are ahead of the politicians,” he said in a recent interview. “I just felt, ‘Well, screw it. If I believe it, I should propose it.’”

Ferguson hasn’t drafted any legislation yet. When he gets around to it, he will likely cherry pick ideas from states such as California, which enacted a bunch of new laws this year.

One California law bans the possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets — which is the limit Ferguson said he wants imposed.

Another bans the sale of semiautomatic rifles equipped with buttons allowing the ammunition magazines to be easily detached and replaced. Also, people buying ammunition will need to show identification and undergo a background check to ensure they are not a felon or otherwise prohibited from having firearms. A new database of ammunition owners is to be created in that state.

Ferguson announced his intentions to seek an assault-weapon ban in Washington at a press conference Sept. 7, in Seattle, flanked by political and community leaders and the parents of Will Kramer, who was shot and wounded at the Mukilteo party where three others were killed.

Not all the invitees showed up.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee didn’t. A spokesman for his re-election campaign didn’t explain the absence but said not to read anything into it either because Inslee is all in on a ban.

“There’s no reason why he didn’t attend. He’s very supportive of the attorney general’s efforts,” said spokesman Jamal Raad.

Also absent were leaders of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the state’s powerful political counterbalance to the National Rifle Association.

The alliance, bankrolled by billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Paul Allen and the slightly less wealthy Steven Ballmer and Nicholas Hanauer, passed the universal background checks initiative in 2014.

This year the alliance is pushing Initiative 1491 to allow families and cops to get a court order to suspend a person’s access to firearms if there is evidence they are threatening harm to themselves or others. The person subject to such an order must surrender their guns and wouldn’t be able to buy, sell, or possess other firearms for up to one year.

Renee Hopkins, the alliance executive director, didn’t explain why no one showed up nor why the organization — which attacks the gun lobby daily in fundraising emails — didn’t issue a public ‘attaboy’ to Ferguson.

Alliance leaders could be nervous that talk of banning assault weapons might incite opposition to their measure which, in August, had support of 64 percent in a statewide poll. Hopkins sidestepped the question.

“We’re in really good conversation with Bob. We’re really glad Bob is in this space,” she said. Their focus, she said, is on I-1491 which is the “biggest thing people can do to reduce gun violence this year.”

In the meantime, this is a busy weekend for those on the front lines of the debate.

On Saturday, about 200 people are expected to show up at the state Capitol for a rally and picnic organized by the Gun Rights Coalition.

If the past is any indication, some attendees will accessorize with holstered pistols and long guns slung over their shoulders.

And undoubtedly speakers will channel the message of National Rifle Association leaders on the threat posed by Ferguson’s plan.

“Instead of playing games with the rights of his constituency, maybe AG Ferguson could focus on stopping the criminals who commit the crimes instead,” reads a statement issued by the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “This legislation will only disarm and restrict law-abiding gun owners from being able to defend themselves using the most effective means.”

Also Saturday, a 10 a.m. ceremony is planned at Martha Lake in Lynnwood to mark the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.

And on Sunday, musicians will perform on stages nationwide — including 13 venues in Washington — as part of The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. The purpose is to honor victims of gun violence and to make its prevention an issue in this year’s elections from state houses to the White House.

Ferguson is singing his verse.

“I’m not under any illusion of the challenge we face. We’ve got a lot of work to do to give ourselves a chance,” he said. “Everybody always wants to wait. It drives me insane.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com Twitter: @dospueblos

More in News & Comment

Protestors gather at SeaTac’s Families Belong Together rally. Photo by Alex Garland
Seattle’s Separated Children

A local non-profit houses several immigrant youths who were separated from their parents at the border. But for how long?

Katrina Johnson, Charleena Lyles’ cousin, speaks at a press conference for De-Escalate Washington’s I-940 on July 6, 2017. Photo by Sara Bernard
Communities of Color Respond to Police Chief Best’s Nomination

Although its a mixed bag for some, the families affected by police shootings say she’s the best one for the job.

While King County Metro has been testing out several trial electric buses since since 2016, the agency aims to have a fully electric bus fleet by 2040. Photo by SounderBruce/Flickr
King County Rolls on With Its Electric Bus Fleet Plans

With an overhaul set by 2040, a new report shows the economic and health benefits of going electric.

Nikkita Oliver speaks at a July 17 No New Youth Jail press conference in front of the construction site of the King County Youth Detention Center. Photo by Josh Kelety
King County Youth Detention Center Moves Forward Despite Opposition

As community criticism of the project mounts, King County tries to take a middle road.

Trouble in Tacoma

A cannabis producer has been shut down for “numerous and substantial violations.”

Between Seattle’s $15 minimum wage and the new no-poach cause agreement, Washington has been leading the nation in advancing fast food workers’ rights. Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr
Washington AG’s Deal Grants Mobility to Fast Food Workers Nationwide

Seven fast food chains have agreed to end no-poaching policies that economists say cause wage stagnation.

The Carlton Complex wildfire burned in north-central Washington state in 2014. Photo by Jason Kriess/Wikimedia Commons
King County Burn Ban Starts This Weekend

Other counties across the state have already enacted similar restrictions.

Numerous complaints against King County Sheriff’s deputies for issues like excessive force and improper search and seizure weren’t investigated due to internal misclassification, a new report says. Photo by Oran Viriyincy/Flickr
Report Finds Complaints Against King County Sheriff’s Deputies Weren’t Investigated

An outside review says that allegations of excessive force and racially-biased policing weren’t pursued.

Most Read