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Washington State Passes “Assault Weapons” Ban And Is Immediately Sued

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On April 25th, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed three gun control bills — a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” a requirement for waiting periods and training courses for firearms purchases, and a bill to allow lawsuits against the firearms industry.

Almost immediately, Washington was hit with three lawsuits challenging the ban, initiated by the Firearms Policy Coalition, Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Aero Precision, and others.

HB 1240, Washington's AWB, bans the transfer, importation, and manufacture of many types of semi-automatic firearms that are widely and commonly owned and used by citizens of the state. Like California, the law lists specific models of shotguns, handguns, and rifles, as well as characteristics and features that are verboten.

For example, semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines must have an overall length greater than 30 inches, and can only have one of the many common features found on almost any rifle these days, such as a pistol grip, folding or telescoping stock, forward grip, flash hider, muzzle brake, silencer, threaded barrel, barrel shroud, and so on.

Even parts and a “combination of parts” is considered an “assault weapon.” Conveniently, law enforcement is exempt, despite the bill's text inaccurately asserting that “assault weapons are not suitable for self-defense.”

HB 1143 enacts additional requirements for firearms purchases by law-abiding citizens, including completion of a “recognized firearms safety training program” at their own expense and an arbitrary 10-day waiting period. It also prescribes the recording and retention of information about the purchaser and firearms.

The third bill in the hat trick of impositions on the Second Amendment and individual rights is SB 5078.

It blatantly demonizes the firearms industry and attempts to circumvent the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which was passed in 2005 to prevent politically-motivated and meritless lawsuits against the firearms industry.

The new law seeks to open the floodgates to sue companies for damages based on the criminal misuse of their products.

On April 25, 2023, Gov. Jay Inslee signed HB 1240, HB 1143, and SB 5078 in the State Reception Room of the Washington State Capitol. Photo credit: Washington State

The same day Inslee signed these bills, Washington immediately faced three separate lawsuits challenging HB 1240, the AWB.

Firearms Policy Coalition and Second Amendment Foundation filed suit, stating:

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.” U.S. Const. amend. II. This Amendment guarantees a fundamental right to keep and bear common firearms for defense of self and family and for other lawful pursuits.'” The Complaint states. “But the State has enacted, and Defendants have authority to enforce, a flat prohibition on the manufacture, import, distribution, sale, and offering for sale of many common firearms—tendentiously labeled “assault weapons”—by ordinary citizens (“the Washington Ban”), making it a crime for law-abiding citizens to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear such arms. In so doing, 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. By banning manufacturing, importation, distribution, and sale of common semiautomatic rifles, the State has barred law-abiding residents from legally acquiring common rifles and has deprived them of an effective means of self-defense and their fundamental individual right to keep and bear arms.

The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, along with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, also filed a lawsuit in Washington:

“This new law is blatantly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court long-ago ruled that states cannot ban firearms that are in common use. Recently, SCOTUS bolstered that ruling in NYSRPA v. Bruen. AR-15-style firearms are the most popular rifles in America. In fact, AR-15s outsell America’s most popular truck, the Ford F-150, and there are more privately owned AR-15-style firearms than subscribers to all daily newspapers nationwide, combined,” said Aoibheann Cline, Washington state director, NRA-ILA. “It’s outrageous that states continue to pass these unconstitutional bans. But rest assured, the NRA will continue to fight each one.”

Washington’s new law, HB 1240, is the worst of such schemes in the country, exceeding what California imposes on its citizens. It bans nearly every modern semiautomatic rifle, as listed in the bill. But the ban also extends to some semiautomatic handguns and shotguns. Tens of millions of Americans own these firearms and they are used in self-defense, recreational shooting and hunting everyday.

Furthermore, Aero Precision, one of the most well-known firearms manufacturers in the US, is based in Washington state. Along with the NSSF, other companies in the state, and Olympian Amanda Banta, they also filed suit.

“We do not agree with this law and we do not think it is constitutional,” said Scott Dover, CEO of Aero Precision. “HB1240 bans some of the most common firearms and parts available. It impacts the lawful ownership of products we manufacture and sell to thousands of our customers in the State of Washington. It also restricts the rights of the individuals, Aero Precision employees, who make these parts. We will fight this law in the courts and are confident in the outcome given the clear rulings in multiple Supreme Court cases, including Heller and Bruen.” 

It's probably a good bet that additional lawsuits are also in the works.

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