March 20, 2022
Virtually every day’s news brings a story of gun-related violence, something which would not be tolerated, or even exist, in a rational society. The muddled opinions of the Supreme Court in Heller and McDonald to the contrary notwithstanding, there is no general right to possess a gun found in the Constitution. However, the Second Amendment has become an excuse for mass possession of guns (the U.S. has far more guns per capita than any other country) and irresponsible use (TSA reported that more people tried to carry guns onto planes in 2021 than in any previous year).
In addition to the potential for irresponsible and felonious use of guns by citizens, there is a serious problem regarding their use in law enforcement. It is necessary for police officers to be armed, at least part of the time (although that would be less true if the country weren’t awash in guns). However, there are so many instances of irresponsible use of firearms by police that it is clear that more careful hiring, better training, greater accountability, and more rational policies regarding the use of arms are required. Laws enacted last year in Washington should help to address that issue in this state.
There is a third major problem created by our lax gun policies. Increasingly, people and groups with extreme views are engaging in or threatening political violence. The fact that they are, or easily can be, armed turns what might be ignorant political chatter into deadly menace.
There is little chance that the number of guns in private hands will be reduced any time soon, but some control measures are possible. Restricting where guns may be carried is one way to lessen their menace. The Washington Legislature addressed that issue in a bill passed last year. The Legislature made additional moves this year.
Senate Bill 5078 provides: “No person in this state may manufacture, import, distribute, sell, or offer for sale any large capacity magazine,” defined as “an ammunition feeding device with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition.” The bill exempts sales, etc. to US armed forces, the state, law enforcement agencies and out-of-state buyers. It does not ban possession of such magazines.
House Bill 1705, in the usual opaque language, addresses the “ghost gun” issue; it prohibits the manufacture or assembly of an “untraceable firearm” and, after March 10, 2023, and with some exceptions, prohibits “knowingly or recklessly” possessing, transporting, or receiving an untraceable firearm.
Small steps are better than none.
<br>1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/03/18/tsa-gun-seizures-airport-security/?utm_ campaign =wp_politics_am&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_politics&carta-url=https %3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F36582f2%2F62346e523e6ed13ade2c8cbb%2F5b65de00ade4e2779564ed94%2F11%2F59%2F62346e523e6ed13ade2c8cbb
<br>2. See post of July 6, 2021.
<br>3. Senate Bill 5038, singed by the Governor 5/12/21. See post of July 8, 2021.
<br>4. Here is commentary by the Washington Attorney General’s office: https://www.atg.wa.gov/news/news-releases/washington-senate-passes-legislation-ban-sale-high-capacity-magazines-historic