Legislature considers raising age limit for gun purchases

2016 Mukilteo shooting at the heart of new gun legislation
By Taylor McAvoy, WNPA Olympia News Bureau | Mar 07, 2018
Photo by: Brandon Gustafson Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell speaking at a YMCA fundraiser in Mukilteo on Feb. 7. Cornell said he holds Mukilteo dear to him after working on the July 2016 Mukilteo shooting case. Cornell spoke at the state Legislature in favor of tougher gun restrictions.

As this year’s legislative session winds down, state lawmakers introduced a new bill in response to the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

SB 6620, and its companion in the House, HB 3004, introduced Friday, Feb. 23, would create a mechanism for students to report dangerous behavior, and would require the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to allocate grants to school districts to implement emergency response systems.

It also raises the age to purchase an assault rifle from 18 to 21. The Parkland shooter was reported to be a 19-year-old who had legally purchased an AR-15 rifle.

And, in bringing back a debate from a previous bill, the new bill would require the purchaser to undergo a federal and state background check as well.

“You cannot really address this issue in full unless you do some reasonable things around these particular firearms that are being used over and over in mass killings,” said the Senate bill’s prime sponsor and vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee David Frockt, D-Seattle.

According to Frockt, the new gun bill would allocate $700,000 in the operating budget to schools for implementation of response and reporting programs. The bill also raises the licensing fee for dealers from $125 to $150 per year.

Because the fee increase and the funding for the program would affect the budget, the bill can be moved through committee without the deadlines facing bills that have no impact on the budget.

“I think we’re in a real desperate situation, and the public wants action and not just talk,” Frockt said.

Washington state has not been immune to gun violence. In July 2016, a 19-year-old purchased an assault rifle legally from Cabela’s and killed three people at a house party in Mukilteo.

Paul Kramer testified in support of the bill at its hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 27. He spoke about his son, Will, who was seriously injured in that shooting.

“Were this proposed bill in effect as law two years ago, the Mukilteo shooting wouldn’t have happened as it did,” Kramer said.

Adam Cornell, a prosecuting attorney in Snohomish County, also spoke on the bill.

Cornell worked on the Mukilteo shooting case and previously said it was one of the hardest cases he had to work.

“There was nothing marginal about those lives,” Cornell said. “And there was nothing marginal about the lives of those who died in Parkland and all the other mass shootings that have happened in this country, and will continue to happen if we don’t do something about it.”

Washington state school shootings in recent years include one at Marysville Pilchuck High School in October 2014 when a student killed four others and himself, and another at Freeman High School in September 2017 when a student killed one classmate and wounded three others.

There was also a close call just weeks ago in Everett at ACES High School, where a student was planning a shooting and bombing of the school. His grandmother discovered the plan and promptly called the police.

The suspect, Joshua O’Connor, is 18 and legally purchased a Hi-Point 9mm carbine rifle from West Coast Armory in Everett.

The bill would infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners and ignores the fact that most shootings are committed with handguns, Keely Hopkins, state liaison for the National Rifle Association, said.

“The folks most likely to be affected by this are the least likely to commit crimes,” said Brett Bass of the Bellevue Gun Club and firearms instructor.

Gun regulations should be considered a separate issue from school safety measures, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said.

“Banning long guns from the possession of 18 year olds is not going to solve this problem,” he said. “Better security is.”

Sheldon, one of the few rural Democrats in the state, said lawmakers are not considering the state’s constituency in the urban/rural divide. He added that while the bill only affects those 18 to 21 years old, it chips away at Second Amendment rights.

The bill has until March 8 to become law. The prime sponsor, Frockt, is optimistic that it has the support it needs to pass despite there being no Republican sponsors listed on the bill.

 

Mukilteo Beacon Editor Brandon Gustafson contributed to this story

 

 

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