What new gun laws may mean for Washington state | Roegner

In response to mass gun violence in the nation, a bipartisan group of Senators could provide the state of Washington with money for mental health clinics and school security — although restrictions on guns are limited and would not find support among your typical Washington state voter, who like to see more dramatic laws passed at the national level.

Our state ranks 10th in the country for gun safety, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) said it is not everything we need to end gun violence, so she will continue to fight and press for common-sense gun safety like universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons. Residents of Washington recently joined thousands across the country in a “march for our lives” at the state Capitol in Olympia. One educator made their point with a sign that said “Bullets are not school supplies.”

In 2016, Washington became the fourth state to enact a red flag law that allows law enforcement officers, family and household members to petition a Superior Court judge for an extreme risk protection order and require the surrender of a concealed pistol license and give police the authority to secure someone’s guns.

The respondents’ names are added to a no-sell list, which ensures they won’t pass a background check to purchase a firearm for a one year.

Washington’s background check laws are tougher after the approval of Initiative 594 in 2014, which extends background checks in the state to private sales and transfers. The new national agreement takes a closer look at “the boyfriend” loophole and a measure from 2019 that requires police officers responding to domestic violence incidents to seize firearms and ammunition and remove them until a court hearing is held.

Another measure from that year allows judges to require the surrender of firearms as part of protection orders. King County doesn’t have a “boyfriend loophole,” but having it in the federal legislation is helpful because people easily move between states. County prosecutors are ever watchful of domestic violence issues. The new federal agreement looks to enhance background checks for those under 21, and current Washington laws bar those under 21 from buying semi-automatic rifles.

New restrictions went into effect July 1 that put limits on guns that hold more than 10 rounds, and while this new progress is helpful, it is still a patchwork of laws with a lot of work ahead for those who want real progress, and much work remains to be done at the national level. There is currently a rush on high-capacity magazine purchases because any owned as of July 1 are unaffected by the law. There is also a legal challenge, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he will vigorously defend the new law.

It is not known how much money will come to the state or nation to support health clinics. But it still may not be enough to end the violence.

Charter amendments

The Metropolitan King County Council recently voted 7-2 in its Committee of the Whole to advance a proposal for even-year elections. If approved by the voters this fall, it would move certain positions to the higher voter turnout in even numbered years.

The positions affected would be county executive, assessor, elections director and county council members who would move to mid-term and presidential election cycles when turnout is much higher and more diverse.

The preliminary vote means that the full council will receive a “do pass” recommendation, which the voters can then ratify and change the charter. The sponsoring organizations include the Northwest Progressive Institute, the League of Women Voters of Seattle and King County, and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. Data suggests that voter turnout for positions like the county executive could double, and the turnout could also become more diverse, younger and with more low-income voters. Electing county offices in even years is not particularly unusual — 36 of the 39 counties already do it.

The African-American community suffers the consequences of low voter turnout. The seven council members who voted in favor of the ordinance were Rod Dembowski (District 1), Jeanne Kohl-Welles (District 4), Dave Upthegrove (District 5), Claudia Balducci (District 6) and Joe McDermott (District 8). The two “nay” votes were Pete von Reichbauer (District 7) and Reagan Dunn (District 9). Voters should look favorably on this charter amendment.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.