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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

State legislature approves ban on bump stocks

By Katy Cossette

Four hundred to 800 rounds per minute. That’s how many individual bullets a rifle equipped with a bump stock can fire. Bump stocks are trigger modification devices that turn a regular rifle into an automatic weapon.

On Tuesday, Feb. 27, state legislators approved a ban on bump stocks with a 31-18 vote. The bill will make it illegal to assemble or sell the device starting July 1, and it will be illegal to own a one after July 2019.

Current bump stock owners will be able to participate in a buy-back program through June of next year.

Bump stocks reset guns on their own, allowing the shooter to fire without having to shift their trigger finger. Bumper firing decreases accuracy, but increases lethality.

The shooter in the Las Vegas massacre used bump stocks on 12 of his 23 guns, killing 58 and injuring 546.

The Washington State Senate initially passed the bill in January vote, and it passed in the House on Feb. 23.

State Sen. Kevin Ranker, a Democrat, is one of three legislators for District  40, which encompasses Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan Counties.

Ranker was one of the sponsors of this bill.

“I’m proud the Senate passed legislation that makes it easier for those suffering a crisis to voluntarily turn in their guns to avoid suicide and legislation that requires domestic violence abusers to surrender their guns,” Ranker said in an interview with The Western Front. “These are common-sense actions we can take to reduce gun violence in our communities and keep people safe.”

Although the Las Vegas shooting in October sparked gun law debates in Congress, it did not ban trigger modification devices.

While supporters of gun control reform see this bill as a step in the right direction, some say there is much more that needs to be done.

“Honestly, I have to say, shame on us. We must do more to protect our communities and keep military grade weaponry out of our communities,” Ranker said. “I also co-sponsored bills to ban assault weapons and limit magazine capacity in Washington state this year, and unfortunately, we were not able to pass those bills. We need to do more.”

Yeager’s Sporting Goods in Bellingham. // Photo by Katy Cossette

While Bellingham City Council does not have the authority to change gun laws, some residents spoke on the issue at the City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 28, and some of the Councilmembers have weighed in on the issue.

Councilmember Michael Lilliquist said he supports restrictions on bump stocks, in addition to any trigger modification device meant to form a loophole in the ban on automatic weapons.

But Lilliquist admits that he doesn’t know what the permanent solution to changing gun culture is.

“We can start by realizing that gun culture is often stoked by propaganda and lies meant to frighten people into believing they need guns,” Lilliquist said. “Put simply, many people who oppose gun limits point to dangers and fears that are often baseless or exaggerated.”

Councilmember April Barker is also in support of the ban on bump stocks. She said believes that working closely with schools to create a trauma-informed approach will create a safe space for healing.

Barker also commented on Generation Z’s advocacy for issues like gun control.

“They see problems from a holistic perspective and they’ve seen enough to know they are not just part of the solution; they are the solution,” Barker said.

There have been protests across the country in light of the recent Parkland, Florida shooting and in recognition of the elevated number of mass shootings in the U.S., including in Bellingham, where high school students organized a walkout that brought over a thousand people to protest in front of City Hall.

Nationally, there has been support from President Trump to put a bill in motion that would ban bump stocks, as well as raising the gun purchasing age to 21.

“I signed a memorandum directing the Attorney General to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns. I expect that these critical regulations will be finalized very soon,” Trump said at a press conference on Feb. 20.

Other bills on gun control are still in committee in the Washington state legislature, including a bill to increase the minimum age to purchase certain rifles and shotguns to 21, and a Senate and companion House bill, which look to implement a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines.

Each state has different gun laws. The Giffords Law Center grades states based on strictness of gun control laws. Florida and nine other states are listed as having an F grade. Washington received a B grade.

Federal law only requires a background check through a licensed firearm dealer. Washington requires a background check not only through licensed firearm dealers, but also through private seller and gun shows.

From 2009-2012, states that required background checks on all handgun sales had 35 percent fewer gun deaths than states without required background checks, according to The Giffords Law Center.

However, gun control advocates feel more must be done in Washington state to prevent further tragedies.

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