As the Washington State House Judiciary Committee gathers in Olympia to hear public testimony on two gun control bills Thursday afternoon, proponents of the measure requiring licensing and extensive background checks to own so-called “assault weapons” have a major problem.
Uniform rime data from the FBI dating back to 2013 does not support contentions that semi-automatic rifles or shotguns pose a serious threat to public safety. Indeed, crime reports spanning three years – 2013, 2014 and 2015, the most recent year for which data is available – suggest quite the opposite. Rifles and shotguns are used in a fraction of homicides.
In 2013, according to the FBI data, there were 155 homicides in Washington, of which 86 involved firearms. None of them involved a rifle and only seven were committed with shotguns.
The following year, according to FBI data for 2014, there were 172 murders, of which 94 involved firearms. Of those, six were committed with rifles and four involved shotguns.
In 2015, the Evergreen State logged 209 slayings, and 141 of those were committed with firearms. However, only three of those killings were committed with rifles and five more were committed with shotguns.
Last year, there were two high-profile shootings involving rifles that resulted in multiple victims. One incident in Mukilteo claimed the lives of three teens, and was committed with a modern sport utility rifle (MSR). The other was at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, where five people were killed, and the murder weapon there was a commonly-owned .22-caliber semi-auto, a rimfire rifle model owned by millions of Americans and used for taking small game or recreational shooting. More people died in the shooting involving the rimfire than the MSR.
In layman’s terms, 2016 might have been an anomaly.
The House Judiciary Committee will take testimony on House Bills 1387 and 1122. Under provisions of HB 1387, the “assault weapons” bill, owners must obtain a license that lists each “assault weapon” or large capacity magazine, and the owner may not sell or transfer the firearm or magazine to any other person other than a licensed dealer, federally licensed gunsmith for repair or to a law enforcement agency “for the purpose of permanently relinquishing the assault weapon or…magazine.”
The other legislation, HB 1122, is a so-called “safe storage” bill that critics see as an attempt to micro-manage firearms owners and penalize them for tragedies or crimes committed by other people over whom they have no control.
Washington is reflective of what is, or will be, happening in other states as the gun prohibition lobby – which disguises itself as a “gun safety” movement – turns its attention away from Congress now that Republicans control Capitol Hill and the White House, and increasingly to the states. It is at the state level where anti-gunners think they can get traction, through legislation or citizen initiatives. Legislation like the bills being considered today provide a launch pad for such measures, and with boatloads of cash, the wealthy elitists who want more gun control have discovered that they can literally buy their way onto the ballot.