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Worried About Biden's Assault Weapons Ban? You Should Be More Worried About Inslee and Ferguson's.

Posted by William Kirk, Partner | Feb 14, 2021 | 0 Comments

Today, President Biden used the anniversary of the Parkland, Florida shootings to call on Congress to "toughen America's gun

laws."  There is no time to wait, the president said. “We owe it to all those we've lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now.”

The President has been fairly silent on his gun control plans and today's statement was the first time that any specifics were even mentioned.  Specifically, the President called for "universal background checks" and an "Assault Weapons Ban."  While the debate over universal background checks may be relevant in some jurisdictions, Washington has one of the most thorough and stringent background requirements.  Citizens are subjected to background checks for all firearms purchases, including many private transactions.  Background checks are required for all CPL applications.  So to subject a Washington resident to a "universal background check" is unlikely to alter their experience in any discernable way.  

But an Assault Weapons ban is an entirely different story.  While many may be concerned about President Biden's push today for this ban, Washington residents should be far more worried about Senate Bill 5217.  With strong support from both Governor Inslee and Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, SB 5217 would essentially ban hundreds of weapons with one signature.  Put more simply, the greatest threat to your Second Amendment Right is not in Washington D.C, its in Olympia.  

What SB 5217 Would Ban:

The bill would ban AR of all types, AK 74 and 47 in all types, nearly every other type of semi-automatic rifle and any semi-automatic rimfire or centerfire rifle with an overall length of less than 30 inches.  In addition, the law would also ban "any conversion kit, part, or combination of parts, from which an assault weapon can be assembled if those parts are in the possession or under the control of the same person."

How Would the Law Work?

If passed, a new section to RCW 9.41 would be added which would read:

No person in this state may manufacture, possess, distribute, import, transfer, sell, offer for sale, purchase, or otherwise transfer any assault weapon except as authorized in this section. 

Would You Have to Forfeit or Surrender Your AR or AK 47? 

The short answer is "not yet."  But that does not mean that the government won't, at some point, take possession of that firearm.  

(2) Subsection (1) of this section does not apply to any of the following:

(a) The possession of an assault weapon by a person who legally possessed the assault weapon on the effective date of this section, or possession of an assault weapon by a person who, on or after the effective date of this section, acquires possession of the assault weapon by operation of law upon the death of the former owner who was in legal possession of the assault weapon, provided the person in possession of the assault weapon can establish such provenance. A person who legally possesses an assault weapon under this subsection may not sell or transfer the assault weapon to any other person in this state other than to a licensed dealer, to a federally licensed gun smith for the purpose of service or repair, or to a law enforcement agency for the purpose of permanently relinquishing the assault weapon.

So as you can clearly see, the proposed statute would permit a person to inherit an assault rifle, but the burden of proving that lawful inheritance lies with the recipient.  More troubling is that no one can sell or transfer the assault weapon to any other person in this state other than a licensed dealer.  Of course, this begs the question as to whether a gun trust becomes the only method available to pass down assault rifles which are otherwise legally owned.  

What Do You Do Now?

Well, there is a long way to go before this bill becomes a law and similar legislation has stalled before in Olympia.  But clearly there is a political party who feels emboldened and hell-bent of disarming lawful and responsible gun owners.  If you've been considering purchasing an AR style rifle, now might be the time to make that investment.  SB 5217 makes it very clear that:

A person who lawfully possessed, has a purchase order for, or completed an application to purchase an assault weapon before January 1, 2022, and who has registered the assault weapon with the Washington State Patrol may continue to possess and transport the assault weapon.

But the most important thing that you can do is to let your legislator know that you oppose SB 5217 and any other measure designed to deprive you of your Second Amendment Rights.  

About the Author

William Kirk, Partner

Bill Kirk has been named a Super Lawyer by Washington Law and Politics Magazine every year since 2003. He currently serves on the Board of Regents to the National College for DUI Defense and is the President of the Washington Foundation for Criminal Justice. Bill is one of only two attorneys in this state to pass the National College's Board Certification Exam.

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