Washington Assault Weapons Bill Would Ban AR-15s and AK-47s

TeaThe Washington State House on Wednesday approved a sweeping assault weapons ban that would ban the sale and manufacture of all AR-15 and AK-47 rifles and several other popular semi-automatic weapons. If passed, it would impose some of the tightest restrictions on assault weapons in the country.

However, legal experts say courts will strike down the law after the Supreme Court indicated in a decision last June that it would apply tougher constitutional standards to gun restrictions.

Washington state’s bill is broad in the types of guns it covers. It would ban all types of firearms, including the AK-74, AK-47, AR-15, M-16, and M-4 models and “regardless of which … company produced and manufactured the firearm.” It also lists dozens of specific models that may be banned, as well as a number of semi-automatic firearms with accessories that are now common, including telescoping stocks, threaded barrels for muzzle brakes, , flash suppressors or silencers, and pistol grips. Magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition would also be banned.

The bill bans the sale, manufacture and import of such weapons into the state, but does not explicitly ban possession – meaning it would apply to new firearms, but not affect existing owners. There are also some exceptions for law enforcement and the military.

About nine states and DC currently prohibit assault weapons; They include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Laws differ as to which firearms they classify as assault weapons as well as restrictions on the sale, manufacture, or possession of these guns.

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The legislation is supported by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who was on the floor during its passage in Seattle. times informed of. The legislation succeeded on a straight party-line vote and now moves to the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority.

State Democrats who supported the bill pointed to a steady stream of mass shootings in the US in advocating its passage. The law highlights an analysis of mass shootings that result in four or more deaths; According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Violence, 85% of fatal assaults were caused by a weapon. Republicans say the measure is too broad and will likely be struck down by the courts.

Legal experts mostly agree with the Washington State Republican’s assessment. This is because of the tough decision of the Supreme Court last June New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc v. Bruen, in which the court ruled that Americans had a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion, ruled more broadly that gun-related measures would be constitutional only if they were “consistent with the historical tradition of this country” and the same rules as at the time of the Constitution.

Even though most federal courts have previously upheld a ban on so-called assault weapons, which gun rights groups say is an arbitrary label that targets gun features and accessories, the high court’s view of the Second Amendment Several decisions came before a more detailed approach was taken, says Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA and an expert on gun policy. ,[The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association ruling] fundamentally changed the Second Amendment doctrine and made it much harder for gun laws, such as assault weapons bans to survive,” says Winkler.

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“The Supreme Court said that for a gun law to be constitutional today, it had to be consistent with the gun laws of the 1700s and 1800s—and of course, assault weapon restrictions were not common. Assault weapons themselves were not common,” says Winkler. were not.”

Another Supreme Court restriction is the “common use” test and the idea that the Second Amendment protects firearms in common use by the law-abiding public. AR-15-style rifles, like those targeted in Washington’s assault weapons ban, are by many accounts the most popular rifles in America — at a time when rates of gun ownership are on the rise.

Robert Cotroll, a law professor and gun policy expert at George Washington University, says the bill’s measure targeting the sale of large-capacity magazines makes sense because magazines that hold more ammunition are easier to buy, even if the gun To be sold with small magazine. , But he questions whether some of the provisions in the bill have features that are more ostentatious than lethal. “Has anyone ever been killed by a pistol grip? These are things that make the rifles look more like modern military rifles, but they don’t make them act more like them,” Cottrell says.

David Koppel, a gun rights advocate and adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, argues that gun control advocates have never used a stable definition of an assault weapon. “It’s a marketing term used to encompass a comprehensive gun ban any time it seems politically feasible,” Koppel says. Koppel notes that an adjustable stock is a useful feature that can allow a tall and short person to share the same gun. “Each user can adjust the stock for a proper fit, which promotes consistency and accuracy, and therefore safety,” he says.

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The Washington bill emerges at a time of conflict over gun restrictions, says Winkler at UCLA. “If this legislation passes, it will be a reflection of the growing strength of the gun safety reform movement. Also, this success comes just as gun rights are being expanded on the Supreme Court.

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write to Sanya Mansoor at sanya.mansoor@time.com.

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