Washington attorney general wants ban on assault-style weapons; opponents outraged

SEATTLE — The state’s chief legal officer says he wants assault weapons banned in Washington state.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said at a news conference Wednesday that he’s planning to push lawmakers in January to end the sale of military-style semi-automatic rifles and limit high-capacity magazines.

On Wednesday, Tom Danner showed up at LowPriceGuns.com in Bellevue upset over Ferguson’s proposal. He says he recently bought his first gun after being a victim of an attempted robbery.

“I bought my first gun at 59,” Danner said.

Danner believes citizens should have the choice to buy any gun they want, but Ferguson says the Second Amendment should come with restrictions.

“Just as the First Amendment does not grant you the right to yell fire in a crowded theater, the Second Amendment is not without limits,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson also wants to limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds.

Opponents say Ferguson’s measures are unconstitutional.

“Assault weapons bans are constitutional,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson pointed to three different U.S. Court of Appeals decisions that upheld assault weapons bans in other states.

When asked what other types of assault-style weapons would be prohibited besides the popular AR-15s, state Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, says they are in the process of looking at bans issued in other states to come up with the specific details of the legislation. Ranker said he plans to reach out to Republicans in the hope of making the bill a nonpartisan issue.

“We anticipate grandfathering in possession of weapons already owned prior to the effective date,” state Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said.

Among the 50 state and city leaders in support of a ban were the parents of Will Kramer, a teenager who survived the recent house party shooting in Mukilteo that killed three others.

“Imagine your son in the ICU learning that three of his friends died,” Will Kramer’s mom said.

“I have been heartbroken and shaken to the core being, my hope is that we can make Washington safer,” said Paul Kramer, Will Kramer's father.

It’s a passionate cry for change -- something the Second Amendment Foundation says has no chance of passing the Legislature.

“You are talking about the civil rights of every citizen, not just the people who misuse firearms. Rifles are used in just a fraction of murders that occur in the United States,” said Dave Workman, of the gun-rights organization Second Amendment Foundation.

Gun owners say the problem isn’t guns but people.

“It’s the mentality of the person who is holding the weapon,” John Kangas said.

“There are a lot of social problems that need to be resolved, many of which will help alleviate these problems,” Danner said.

Danner added that restrictions on rifles wouldn't deter the violence. But others disagree.

“If we have any say, and I think we do, we want to do what we can to stop it from happening elsewhere,” Paul Kramer said.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation says in Washington state about 360,000 sporting rifles, including AR-15s, were sold between 1998 to 2015.

During Wednesday’s press conference at the Attorney General’s Office, no Republican lawmakers were present. State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Whatcom County, released a statement after Q13 News reached out to him. It reads, in part:

“Mr. Ferguson should focus on enforcing laws in Washington—not limiting the rights of law-abiding citizens. It is not clear if Mr. Ferguson even understands what he is trying to ban because his proposal would make many handguns in Washington illegal, guns used by thousands and thousands of law-abiding citizens for self-defense. This is another example of political grandstanding that will not keep our families safe—and will leave many law abiding citizens without the ability to defend themselves.”

Democrats say they believe they have the momentum to pass the measure.