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New state gun law already faces federal court challenge

One law bans the sale of dozens of types of semi-automatic rifles

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signs House Bill 1240 April 25 at the Capitol in Olympia
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signs House Bill 1240 April 25 at the Capitol in Olympia (Lindsey Wasson/Associated Press)

OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a trio of bills meant to address gun violence Tuesday, April 25, one banning the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles, one imposing a 10-day waiting period on firearms purchases and one clearing the way for lawsuits against gun makers or sellers in certain cases.

A crowd of gun-control activists and Democratic lawmakers broke into cheers as Inslee signed the measures, which he said would not solve all gun violence but would save lives.

“Just because they don’t solve all the problems does not mean the state of Washington does not take action,” Inslee said. “Inaction against gun violence is unacceptable.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre praised state officials for passing the ban on selling specific semi-automatic weapons. President Joe Biden, who has been pushing for additional gun control measures, “commends the leadership of Washington Governor Jay Inslee and legislative leaders as well as the advocates, survivors and elected officials who fought for years to make today a reality,” she said.

The sales ban, which took effect immediately, drew a quick legal challenge from the Second Amendment Foundation, based in Bellevue, Washington; and the Firearms Policy Coalition, based in Sacramento, California. The groups sued in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on Tuesday, saying the law violates the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

“The State of Washington has criminalized one of the most common and important means by which its citizens can exercise their fundamental right to self-defense,” the plaintiffs said.

Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both Democrats, pushed for the Democratic-controlled Washington Legislature to pass the ban on many semi-automatic weapons this session after years of failed attempts. The U.S. is setting a record pace for mass killings this year, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University. All of this year’s mass killings have involved firearms.

Washington’s new law prohibits the future sale, distribution, manufacture and importation of more than 50 types of guns, including AR- and AK-style rifles. The measure does not bar the possession of the weapons by people who already have them.

Washington is the 10th state — including California, Hawaii, Illinois and New York — to enact such a law.


The bill concerning lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers requires them to exercise reasonable controls in making, selling and marketing weapons, including steps to keep guns from being sold to people known to be dangerous or to straw buyers who might buy weapons on someone else’s behalf. It allows the attorney general or private parties, such as the family members of victims, to sue over violations or damages.

The third measure, including the 10-day waiting period, will create an important buffer between people in crisis and a firearm, Inslee said. That measure also requires all gun buyers to show they’ve taken safety training.

Washington has moved to tighten the state’s gun laws in recent years, after a young man in 2016 used a newly purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with a 30-round magazine to kill three teens and wound another at a house party north of Seattle.

Inslee last year signed a package of bills including one that banned the manufacture, distribution and sale of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. It doesn’t prohibit the possession of such magazines. 

Associated Press reporter Gene Johnson contributed from Seattle. Lisa Baumann reported from Bellingham.

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