Washington’s Gun Ban Passed…and Then It Didn’t
Washington State House Bill 1240 (HB 1240), nicknamed the 'assault weapon' ban, has been one of the most discussed and debated bills of this session. It's been debated around the water cooler, the dinner table, on talk radio, and on the floors of the State House and Senate.
We told you on April 9th that the Senate passed HB 1240, with a couple of amendments, and it would need to go back to the House for that body to concur with the Senate's modifications. Since this bill was put forth at the request of Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, it seemed like a no-brainer.
So The Bill Passed Right?
Yes and no. The House passed it out of their chamber on March 8th 55-42 with one lawmaker excused. The Senate took it up two days later on March 10th in the Law and Justice Committee. The Senate went through their process and three amendments were proposed and accepted, two from Democrats and one from Republicans.
Amendment Number 1
Sen. Jamie Pederson, the Democrat Majority Floor Leader from the 43rd District, proposed an amendment in the Law and Justice Committee.
The amendments effect reads:
"Modifies the definition of "import" to exclude situations
where an individual possesses an assault weapon when departing and
returning to Washington state with the same assault weapon."
It would allow you to keep a gun you already own that falls on the newly created banned list if you move out of state, then back into the state.
Amendment Number 2
Sen. Keith Wagoner, the Republican Whip from the 39th District, offered an amendment that was accepted.
His amendments effect reads:
"Provides exceptions for persons on active military duty
receiving orders to move to Washington state, or military retirees
moving to Washington state."
This would exempt any weapons on the list that are owned by active military that are transferred to Washington State or retirees that already own a banned gun that moves to the state.
Amendment Number 3
Sen. Emily Randall, the Democrat Deputy Majority Leader from the 26th District, offered the final amendment that was accepted.
Her amendments effect read:
"Clarifies an existing exception to the bill by allowing
firearms dealers to sell or transfer their existing stock of assault
weapons that were acquired prior to January 1, 2023, to outside of
the state for the limited period of 90 days after the effective date
of this section."
The Senate then voted on party lines to pass the amended version of HB 1240 27-21 with one lawmaker excused.
An Unexpected Thing happened on Its Way to the Governor...
It was expected the House would concur and the bill would be on its way to Governor Inslee's desk for a signature, and then probably face at least one legal challenge. The House didn't concur and sent the bill back to the Senate with instruction to remove their amendments.
So Where Do Things Stand Now?
The ball is firmly in the Senate's Court. They can cede to the wishes of the House, remove their amendments, hold another vote, and if it passes it goes back to the House in the way the junior chamber wants. They could also stand firm to their amendments, which might be how they got enough votes to pass it, and the bill dies in that chamber for this session and does not become law.
That does not mean it is truly dead. The bill could be revived in 2024, the second year of the biennial session. For the moment the Senate has made no movement on pulling there amendments, but with a week left in the session, anything can happen.