Editorials

State House must pass the bump-stock ban

The state Senate voted Thursday to ban the sale, ownership or use of “bump stocks.” Those are the gadgets that let a person turn a semi-automatic firearm into a virtual machine gun.

If anyone needs to be reminded, the mass shooter in the Las Vegas massacre last Oct. 1 used these devices to boost the firepower of his arsenal of AR-style rifles. Before he died he killed 58 people and injured hundreds more.

Machine guns, as most people know, are already illegal. The Second Amendment of the U.S. and state constitutions support the right to bear arms. But there is no logical reason that right should include a citizen’s use of a device that boosts civilian firepower so it acts like a machine gun. That is nuts.

A “bump-fire stock,” as it’s also been described, turns a semi-automatic firearm into one that fires up to five bullets a second.

Fortunately a bipartisan majority in our Senate understands this and approved Senate Bill 5992 by a 29-20 vote The bill, if passed into law, will outlaw the sale of bump stocks on July 1 and make their possession illegal in July 2019.

The measure goes to the state House for approval. The Democrat-led chamber should follow approve it. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee also supports the ban.

At the federal level, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is also looking into regulatory actions it can take to limit use of these devices. Past agency interpretations found the bump stock, which utilizes the gun’s recoil to speed up the trigger action, is only a firearm accessory.

Some groups oppose any restrictions. The Firearms Policy Coalition based in Washington, D.C., said last week it sent formal comments to the BATFE objecting to any redefinition of bump stocks as becoming effectively a machine gun. The coalition argues that the Department of Justice and BATFE lack the power as agencies to enact such a rule and warns that lawsuits could be costly for the federal government.

At the legislative level there should be less argument. Several states are weighing bans, and Washington’s would follow that of New Jersey where the Republican governor Chris Christie just signed a ban into law.

There are many constructive steps our country could limit the all-too-casual presence of guns in our society. One study found that of 26 gun control laws studied, background checks for gun and ammunition purchases were among the most effective in reducing firearm deaths.

It makes sense that limiting access to more lethal firearm enhancers and limiting the size of gun clips would also help.

Our state has already enacted universal background checks. That was done by voter approval of an initiative in 2014; the measure requires background checks on all gun transactions, including online trading and gun shows. A more recent initiative gave more discretion to judges to take firearms and other weapons from persons deemed a threat to loved ones or co-workers.

During Senate debate on the passage of the bump stock ban, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville was quoted by Northwest News Network as saying the law would be “the first gun seizure in the state of Washington, because if you are found in possession you are a felon.’’

Another Republican senator said it would not stop a psychotic person from carrying out a mass killing. He also warned it could let police enter homes to seize the illegal devices.

But any notion that any citizen needs this kind of firepower is ludicrous. It is a stretch that these devices are needed because they can let a disabled person fire a guns that the person might otherwise not be able to.

Republican Sen. Hans Zeiger of Puyallup was one of four GOP senators who voted for the measure. But that was after the chamber accepted his amendment, which changed the description of the banned device from “trigger modification device” to a “bump-fire stock.’’

The other Republican senators voting for SB 5992 were Joe Fain of Auburn, Curtis King of Yakima, and Mark Miloscia of Federal Way. Democratic Sen. Sam Hunt was the only South Sound senator to vote for it.

Researchers have found a correlation between more gun ownership and more firearm deaths such as homicides and suicides. Though gun-rights advocates say gun laws cannot prevent mass shootings, other research has found a correlation between the number of gun control laws in a state and lower rates of gun-related deaths.

In the case of bump-stocks, less firepower would arguably mean fewer casualties and injuries.

Who, for goodness sake, can be against that?

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