Legislation /

Washington Bans the Sale of Assault Weapons

Gov. Jay Inslee said the bill 'to improve accountability of manufacturers and retailers will save lives'

Washington is the tenth state to prohibit the sale of guns that are classified as assault weapons.

Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1240 into law on April 20, outlawing the sale of at least 50 models of guns including AR-15s, AK-47s and similar-style rifles.

“WA does not and will not accept gun violence as normal,” Inslee tweeted on April 19, the day the measure was passed by the state Senate. “Banning the sale of assault weapons, our bill to enact training requirements and a wait period, and the bill to improve accountability of manufacturers and retailers will save lives.”

While people in Washington who already own assault weapons will not be in violation of the law, selling, importing, and manufacturing the outlawed guns will be illegal.

“The legislature finds and declares that gun violence is a threat to the public health and safety of Washingtonians,” states HB 1240. “Assault weapons are civilian versions of weapons created for the military and are designed to kill humans quickly and efficiently.”

The bill regards assault weapons as “civilian versions of weapons created for the military and are designed to kill humans quickly and efficiently.” 

The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action said in a statement that the list of prohibited weapons includes shotguns, handguns and rifles as well as semi-automatic rifles with an overall length of less than 30 inches or guns with one or more proscribed features such as telescoping stocks, muzzle brakes, “grips conducive to the natural angles of human wrists,” and suppressors.

“The legislature finds that assault weapons are not suitable for self-defense and that studies show that assault weapons are statistically not used in self-defense,” per the bill. The act states its enactment is necessary for the immediate “preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions.”

The new law took immediate effect with Inslee’s signature. 

Exceptions are granted for police agencies and military members and in the case of inheritance. Gun manufacturers are permitted to sell assault weapons already in their inventory as of Jan. 1, 2023 and only to out-of-state purchasers for 90 days after the measure takes effect. 

“When the measure passed the state House in March Inslee said he’s believed in it since 1994 when, as a member of the U.S. Congress, he voted to make it a federal law,” reports ABC 7

Washington has already instated strict gun regulations, including prohibiting anyone under the age of 21 from buying an assault weapon, instituting a 10-day waiting period when buying a gun, and mandating the completion of firearms safety courses, per Axios

Gun rights advocates are expected to challenge the legality of HB 1240, per KING 5.

The term “assault weapon” has sparked controversy in recent years as control activists and gun rights advocates struggle to develop a common understanding of firearms. 

Steve Dettelbach, the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, told members of a House appropriations subcommittee on April 18 that he is unable to define the term “assault weapon” because he is “not a firearms expert.”

“He admits he isn’t a firearms expert, and I appreciate that honesty,” tweeted attorney Kostas Moros, who represents the California Rifle & Pistol Association, after a clip of Dettelbach’s testimony was shared online. “But then, why is he head of the ATF? Does he know a lot about alcohol or tobacco or something?”

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