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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 9, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 37
Washington Attorney General wants ban on assault-style weapons
Section One
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Washington Attorney General wants ban on assault-style weapons

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

In a bold move Wednesday, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said at a news conference that he will push lawmakers in January to end the sale of military-style semiautomatic rifles and limit high-capacity magazines throughout the state.

This is a show of leadership that many people have been waiting for. If the rest of the nation doesn't get it yet, fine, who cares, let's show them how to get this done and make the ban stick. I don't think rational adults should waste any more time trying to convince people who are worried about 'the bad guys' getting guns while we are all left for slaughter. The sad and sick reality of it all is that we, US citizens, are the 'bad guys' in these active shooting incidents. This is not a foreign problem. It's a domestic problem. We better start treating it like the personal security threat it is before we see an average of two or more mass shootings in the US compared to the one mass shooting per day we already experience.

Ferguson says the Second Amendment should come with restrictions.

'Just as the First Amendment does not grant you the right to yell 'fire' in a crowded theater, the Second Amendment is not without limits,' Ferguson told Q13.

In addition, Ferguson wants to limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds.

Opponents argue that Ferguson's measures are unconstitutional. But he is quick to say, 'Assault weapons bans are constitutional.'

In fact, three different US Court of Appeals decisions upheld assault weapons bans in other states.

On June 20, the Supreme Court rejected challenges to assault weapons bans in Connecticut and New York, in the aftermath of the shooting attack at Pulse, a Gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded. Gunman Omar Mateen used a Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a pistol during the attack. He was killed in a shootout with police.

Several states and the District of Columbia ban assault weapons: California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. In addition, Minnesota and Virginia regulate assault weapons. (Maryland's assault weapons ban is under review by different circuit, and the Supreme Court's decision does not have bearing on that case.)

In response to the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Connecticut and New York enacted bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

The gunman in that attack, Adam Lanza, shot and killed his mother and then drove to the elementary school where he gunned down the young victims with a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle. Lanza then killed himself.

But let's make no mistake - gun violence is a Washington problem too. The National Shooting Sports Foundation says in Washington, about 360,000 sporting rifles, including AR-15s, were sold between 1998 to 2015.

Allen Ivanov, 19, allegedly used an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon that would be banned under Ferguson's proposal. Police say Ivanov had outfitted the weapon with 30-round magazines, emptying one at a July 30 party in Mukilteo. He's accused of storming into a home with plans to kill his former girlfriend and ex-classmates from Kamiak High School. Anna Bui, Jake Long, and Jordan Ebner all died. They were all 19 years old.

'The recent tragedy in Mukilteo drives home the need to act with urgency to end the availability of weapons designed with only one purpose - to kill people,' Ferguson said at the news conference on Wednesday. 'I have a duty to protect the public, as well as uphold the Constitution. My proposal will ban some of the deadliest weapons, while respecting the Second Amendment right to bear arms.'

Will Kramer was injured in the attack, and his parents spoke in favor of the ban at Wednesday's news conference in Seattle.

'These guns are not used in self-defense,' said Dr. Liz Raemont, Kramer's mother. She added, 'Without a ban on these guns, there will be more mass shootings.'

Ivanov plotted the deadly ambush days in advance because he was upset that she was moving on without him. On July 25 he allegedly wrote that he planned to kill her. The day before the shootings, he texted a friend, saying, 'If nothing happens, I'm going for it.' He reportedly indicated that he wanted to wait until after he took a gun-safety class so he wouldn't 'mess up.'

Prosecutors say they believe Ivanov purchased the Ruger semiautomatic rifle four days before the shootings. Police said Ivanov described spending about 20 minutes reading the owner's manual for the AR-15-type rifle before the attack. He needed to know how to load and ready the weapon to fire.

At one point before the attack, he allegedly tweeted: 'What's Ruger gonna think?'

The compared outcomes of two shootings involving suspects with Snohomish County ties speaks to the need for more education - not rhetoric - on the topic.

The Mukilteo shootings involved an assault-style weapon; the shootings at Seattle Pacific University in 2014 involved a Mountlake Terrace man allegedly armed with a shotgun.

Aaron Rey Ybarra, 28, went on a shooting rampage at Seattle Pacific University, a private college in Seattle, and said he wanted to kill as many people as possible before taking his own life. He had a shotgun, a hunting knife, and at least 50 rounds of ammunition on him at the time of the attack. One man, John Meis, stopped Ybarra with pepper spray, putting an end to the rampage while the suspect was reloading.

One man was killed and two others wounded. More people could have been killed if the weapon held more rounds and if it had the same type used in Mukilteo, Ferguson's said.

That's not a stretch or spin or political grandstanding. That is a rational thought.

At the press conference Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole insisted the legislature act.

'Individuals should not have easy access to assault weapons,' O'Toole said. 'This would be a wonderful prevention tool.'

It is important to note that Congress passed a nationwide ban on assault weapons in 1994, but it expired in 2004.

Jaime Smith, spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee, said the governor, who voted for the 1994 assault weapons ban while in Congress, supported Ferguson's proposal in concept.

'The governor has a record of supporting this type of thing,' Smith said. 'The attorney general's proposal is one of many things that we should all be looking at to reduce gun violence.'

Seattle Gay News publisher George Bakan has enthusiastically endorsed Ferguson's proposal.

Baltimore Sun reporter Erin Cox contributed to this article.

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