Washington state bans sale of most semi-automatic rifles

Citizens can still own assault-style rifles — but they will not be able to buy or import most AR-type weapons after HB 1240 is signed.

gun wearing man at a protest

In this Jan. 15, 2015 file photo, Mark Ramirez of Bainbridge Island wears his Colt M4 gun and a button that reads "I Vote - Proud Washington Gun Owner" during a gun-rights rally at the Capitol in Olympia. The Washington Legislature has passed a law to ban the sale, importation and distribution of many kinds of assault-style rifles, which Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Editor's note: Shortly before noon on April 25, Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1240 into law; it took effect immediately.

The Washington Legislature has passed a law to ban the sale, importation and distribution of assault-style rifles, sending one of the highest-profile firearms-regulation bills to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

Inslee, a three-term Democrat and former congressman who supported the federal assault weapons ban, requested House Bill 1240, along with Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and is expected to sign it.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, bars the distribution, manufacture, importation or sale of AR-style semi-automatic rifles, as well as some other kinds of semi-automatic weapons.

“We do not have to continue to tolerate these weapons of war in our community,” Peterson said in a statement last month when the bill first passed the House. “This is not a ban on possession, nor is it a ban on personal protection. This policy acknowledges the data and reduces the risk of harm our communities face with a policy we know will be effective in saving lives.”

The legislation includes a list of specific models to be banned – including AK-47s and AR-15s – and specific design guidelines that would be prohibited, according to a legislative analysis.

The legislation doesn’t prohibit possession of such rifles currently owned by individuals. And the law will continue to allow the sale or transfer of some semi-automatic rifles and shotguns that don’t fit lawmakers’ definition of “assault.” The Attorney General’s Office has confirmed that at least two semi-automatic weapons currently on the market will remain available: the Ruger 10/22 carbine and the Stoeger M3000 sporting shotgun.

Republicans have protested the bill – along many other firearms regulations – as a violation of constitutional gun rights that won’t do much to reduce fatalities.

The bill – one of three key firearms measures advanced by Democrats this year – cleared its final vote on Wednesday, with all Republicans opposed and nearly all Democrats in support. That was the last of a series of high-profile gun debates on the House and Senate floors.

In a question-and-answer session Wednesday with reporters, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, a Democrat from Tacoma and longtime supporter of stricter firearms regulations, summed up the final vote: “A good day.”

In a statement on Thursday, Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, blasted the bill as “so poorly conceived as to be meaningless” and predicted it might not survive a challenge under the new conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court.

“The U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling in the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn. v. Bruen holds clearly that state laws which infringe or impair foundational firearms rights are unconstitutional,” Walsh said. “And must be overturned.” 

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