A bill that would ban bump stocks, a device that increases a weapon’s rate of fire, is a step closer to becoming law. Senate Bill 5992 passed the House of Representatives 56-41 on Friday, Feb. 23 largely along party lines. The bill previously passed in the Senate 29-20 on Jan. 25.
“It’s always been my belief that lawmakers should be judged not by what we say in response to gun violence but by what we do in response to gun violence,” Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) said during floor debate.
The votes came in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida last week in which 17 people were killed at a high school. Since then, Parkland students have traveled to their state capital to lobby for further gun regulations.
The conversation about bump stocks ignited across the country after a shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas that killed 58 people.
While lawmakers addressed national news, state tragedies weighed heavy on their minds. Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self (D-Mukilteo) said she was a counselor responding to the Oct. 24, 2014 shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School, when four students were killed before the gunman fatally shot himself.
“I know this isn’t going to make everything right but it is a step in the right direction,” she said.
Of 48 Republican lawmakers, 40 voted against the bill. Representative Jay Rodne (R-Snoqualmie) said the bill sets up a system where the government can confiscate weapons and is an affront to the Second Amendment.
Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) said that good people with firearms has always been the way to stop people with intentions to kill. Rep. Shea served for eight months as a platoon leader in Bosnia and 11 months as a company commander and logistics officer in Iraq. He cited his military experiencing supporting a citizen’s right to protect themselves.
“It is not going to change the hearts of bad people,” Shea said of the bill. “It is not going to deal with the mental health crisis we have. It is not going to deal with the veteran suicide epidemic that we have. That’s where our priorities should be.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the isle pointed to mental health measures both in national news and in Washington state.
A supplemental operating budget, SB 6032, passed the Senate floor 25-23 on Friday, Feb. 23 and would invest nearly $294 million additional dollars over four years to improve mental health treatment around the state, according to a press release.
Nine amendments proposed during the debate outlined exemptions for people with disabilities, exemptions for veterans and law enforcement officers, and one would have allowed people to keep the bump stocks they already have.
Eight of the nine amendments failed. The bill makes bump stocks illegal to manufacture or sell beginning in July 2018, and then illegal to own in July 2019. The amendment that passed sets up a buy-back program so people who own bump stocks can receive some sort of compensation within that period.
Before going to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk to sign, the bill will go back to the Senate for consideration on the amendment.
This is an edited version of a report produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.