On April 25thWashington State has taken significant measures to decrease the likelihood of gun violence, including mass shootings, within its jurisdiction. Three new gun control bills have been implemented, which prohibit certain types of semi-automatic rifles, establish a ten-day waiting period before buyers can receive their purchased firearms, and enable legal action against gun manufacturers or sellers in specific circumstances. Although the Governor acknowledges that these bills do not completely resolve all issues related to gun violence, they represent a crucial step towards reducing the risk of mass shootings.
From 2015 to 2021, there were 31 incidents of mass shootings in Washington state. Although mass shootings are not as frequent as single victim homicides, they have a significant impact on gun reform discussions due to the attention and shock they generate at a local and global level. In response, Washington has introduced three new bills aimed at preventing future tragedies and ensuring the safety of its residents.
The new bills tackle mass shootings in Washington State
th of May, have been approved by Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State.thOn the month of April, implement three fresh limitations aimed at decreasing the likelihood of firearm-related harm.
A ban on certain semi-automatic rifles
Certain AR- and AK- style semi-automatic rifles are prohibited from being sold. The focus on these types of guns is important for a few reasons. Firstly, guns like the AR-15 can cause significant harm to large groups of people in a short amount of time. They are powerful, accurate, have a high firing rate, and are generally easy to obtain in the US. Because of this, they have become the preferred weapon for individuals planning mass shootings, being used in ten out of the 17 deadliest mass killings since 2012. Although the ban does not address the underlying issue, it means that potential killers in Washington will likely have to choose a less lethal alternative.
The bill’s intent section gives the following reasoning for the ban:
In the past ten years, the most devastating mass shootings have involved the use of assault weapons. A perpetrator armed with an assault weapon has the potential to cause harm and fatalities to twice as many individuals compared to someone armed with a handgun or nonassault rifle.
Secondly, the AR-15 in particular has become a symbol of the conservative American right. The gun, which is more at home on a battlefield than it is in the streets, fields and forests of the US, has little-to-no practical use for the average American. Despite this – and the fact that the gun is now forever linked to the slaughter of school children and innocent civilians – republican politicians and their supporters alike continue to pose with glee alongside their prized weapon.
Merry Christmas! 🎄
ps. Santa, please bring ammo. 🎁 pic.twitter.com/NVawULhCNr
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) December 4, 2021
This idolisation of the popular mass murder device is exemplified in the fact that senior republican figures Lauren Boebert and George Santos co-sponsored a bill that would make the AR-15 the “national gun of the USA” in February 2023. For many on the right, it is more a question of having it because they can, not because they need to – whatever the human cost.
Buyers are required to wait for ten days before making a purchase, and manufacturers may face legal consequences.
The revised legislation not only focuses on purchasers, but also addresses the responsibilities of manufacturers and sellers. Going forward, individuals involved in supplying firearms must take necessary actions to prevent the sale of weapons to individuals known to be a threat or those intending to transfer the gun to someone else. Additionally, they are required to ensure responsible manufacturing and marketing practices for these weapons. If they are found to have neglected any of these obligations, manufacturers can now be legally sued for any future breaches or harm caused.
The previously mentioned waiting period of ten days is intended to create a gap between individuals experiencing crisis and their acquisition of a lethal weapon. Within this timeframe, the purchaser must also demonstrate proof of having undergone the necessary safety training. The objective is to minimize the likelihood of individuals purchasing and utilizing a deadly weapon while experiencing anger or mental instability.
The gun control bills in Washington are just a small part of the overall solution.
In 2023, a total of 14,427 individuals have lost their lives to gun violence in the United States, with an additional 11,412 people sustaining injuries. Although mass shootings receive significant media attention due to their shocking nature, they account for only a small fraction of the overall deaths (212 out of 14,427). While prohibiting specific types of semi-automatic rifles may help prevent devastating mass shootings, the majority of shootings involve a wide range of firearms and will likely continue. In 2021, more than 6,000 homicides were committed using handguns, compared to 447 with rifles. Although there were an additional 4,740 cases where the gun type was not recorded, it is evident that solely banning certain styles of semi-automatic rifles is akin to applying a temporary solution to a severe problem. This is especially true considering that an estimated 1.4 million guns were sold in the US last month alone.
Inslee, the governor who signed the bills into law, also recognises these bills as a drop in the ocean, stating:
The fact that they don’t solve every problem doesn’t imply that the state of Washington is inactive in addressing them. It is unacceptable to remain inactive in the face of gun violence.
Gun reform in the US is a gradual and difficult process
As the world observes the frequent occurrence of school, supermarket, church, or street shootings in America, those advocating for gun reform should not expect a complete ban. Although there is strong support for regulations such as mandatory background checks for all gun sales, prohibiting assault weapons, and refusing firearm sales to individuals with potentially dangerous mental health issues (with respective support rates of 88%, 67%, and 84%), there is not a significant demand for a widespread prohibition on gun ownership. However, despite numerous tragedies, protests, and legislative efforts, activists and supporters of gun reform hope to progress towards a future where widespread gun violence in the US becomes a thing of the past. These three bills are certainly a step in that direction.