Washington attorney general proposes assault weapons ban

Washington attorney general proposes assault weapons ban
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Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) offered two new measures this week that would curtail the sale of assault weapons, which he said would cut down on mass shootings while standing up to court scrutiny.

One measure, which Ferguson first announced in September, would ban the sale of assault weapons and magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. 

The bill is modeled on similar legislation that has already passed muster with the highest courts in New York and Connecticut.

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A second bill — a backup — would create a new license for anyone carrying assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It would raise the age limit for purchasing both weapons and larger magazines to 21 years old.

"My alternative represents meaningful reform that will enhance public safety now," Ferguson said in a statement.

Ferguson's office said the measure would have prevented Allen Ivanov from obtaining the weapon he used when he attacked four classmates at a mall north of Seattle. Ivanov, who was 19 at the time of the assault, killed three and injured one with an AR-15 assault rifle he purchased legally.

Those who currently own assault weapons would be grandfathered in under both the proposed ban and the licensure requirement. Anyone purchasing a new weapon would be required to undergo a stricter background check and wait 10 days before obtaining an assault rifle.

Gun control advocates have had success in recent years in Washington state. Voters there passed a ballot initiative in 2014 that expanded background checks to private sales of firearms, a law that served as a model for ballot measures that passed in Nevada and failed in Maine in 2016.

Last year, gun control advocates in the state passed a second initiative limiting gun sales, this time to those who are subject of a protective court order.

The new proposals may become the basis for future ballot measures, as their future looks uncertain in Olympia. Ferguson's measures are likely to face stiff resistance in the state legislature, where a coalition of Republicans and rural Democrats control the state Senate.

Other gun control laws have been introduced in states like Florida, California and Texas ahead of sessions this year. Few stand a good chance of advancing, given Republican control of most legislatures, though advocates in several states are likely to turn to ballot measures down the line.