Washington state Senate tackles list of gun bills

Bills in legislature

SEATTLE (AP) — A grieving mother, a frightened student, prosecutors and law enforcement officers told a Senate panel that setting certain limits on firearms will save lives, while a home-invasion victim, gun store owners and a tribal chairman argued that changing firearms laws will prevent vulnerable people from protecting themselves.

After two days of public hearings on a list of firearms bill, the Senate Law and Justice Committee is expected to debate the measures on Thursday and possibly vote them on to the next panel.

The measure that drew the most comment seeks to limit firearm magazines to 10 rounds.

“High-capacity magazines enable those with evil intent to maximize carnage,” said Sen. Patty Kuderer, sponsor of Senate Bill 6077. Limiting the size of the magazine allows first responders to intervene and save lives, Kuderer, D-Bellevue, said during Monday’s hearing.

Nine other states have pass laws to limit magazine capacity, she said.

Keely Hopkins, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, said people relay on firearms for their personal protection. Others testified that taking the larger magazines from law-abiding citizens makes them vulnerable to bad guys who don’t care about the law.

Ami Strahan told lawmakers that she never got to say good-bye to her 15-year-old son Sam before he was fatally shot by a student at Freeman High School outside Spokane, Washington, in 2017.

The shooter came to school with more than 400 rounds and planned to unload them in a busy hallway, she said. The only thing that saved the other students that day was the shooter’s gun jammed, she said.

“I am here because I am a grieving mother,” she said, speaking in favor of banning high-capacity magazines. “I lost part of my soul and I am still struggling to recover.”

Adam Cornell, a Snohomish County prosecutor said July 30, 2016, was the worst day of his life. It was the day he was called to a mass shooting at a house party in Mukilteo.

“I saw what an AR-15 with a high-capacity magazine can do,” he said, adding: “maximum harm.”

Lawmakers on Monday also heard testimony on bills that would require firearm safety training for people applying for concealed carry permits.

On Tuesday, Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, introduced a bill that would prohibit people charged with felony driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs from possessing firearms. Senate Bill 6163 would also apply to people charged with vehicular homicide or vehicular assault.

The bill would ensure that these offenders would not have access to a gun while going through the pretrial process and potentially prevent suicides, she said.

Amy Freedheim, a King County prosecutor, said she recently had two defendant who were awaiting trial and sentencing who shot and killed themselves.

Nearly 33 percent of those charged with alcohol offenses are at risk of violent firearm acts, she said. Passage of the bill would give judges the discretion to prohibit access to firearms as a condition of release from jail, she said.

An NRA spokesman said they support felons losing their firearms rights when convicted, but taking guns away from a person before they’ve been convicted creates due-process concerns, he said.

Another bill before the panel would create the Washington office of firearm violence prevention. Dhingra said the measure “is about understanding where violence occurs in communities” and would secure grant funds for violence prevention.

“It’s a shift from crisis response to an early intervention and prevention model,” she said.

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