Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Bills to ban sale, enhance background checks for deadly, military-style firearms

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced the introduction of two bills aimed at reducing deadly mass shootings: a previously announced proposal to ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and a second, alternative bill enhancing background checks and raising the minimum age required to buy such weapons and magazines.

“I believe a ban on the sale of assault weapons is the right policy for Washington, and I will keep fighting for that,” Ferguson said. “I’ve said from the beginning that it would be an uphill battle. My alternative represents meaningful reform that will enhance public safety now.”


Ban on sale of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines

A review of mass shootings between January 2009 and January 2013 by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that incidents where assault weapons or large capacity ammunition magazines were used resulted in 135 percent more people shot and 57 percent more killed, compared to other mass shootings.

According to a study from Johns Hopkins, a national ban on high-capacity magazines would prevent 100 homicides and 500 people from being wounded by shootings every year.

Ferguson’s proposal (SB 5050/HB 1134) bans the sale of assault weapons, as defined in the bill, similar to legislation passed in New York and Connecticut and upheld as constitutional by the United States Supreme Court.

The ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines applies to magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Currently, there is no limit on the capacity of magazines in Washington.

The legislation covers only sales, thereby grandfathering current gun ownership. The legislation would not require registration of existing weapons but would require them to be safely and securely stored.

Sen. David Frockt, D—Seattle, and Rep. Strom Peterson, D—Edmonds, are the bill’s prime sponsors.

"This past year, we all watched in horror as the mass shootings in Orlando and Dallas took place,” said Rep. Peterson. “And then it happened here, in Mukilteo. It's past the time we stand up for our communities and keep these assault weapons from destroying more families.”

Ferguson first announced his proposal at a September press conference.


Enhanced Assault Weapon Background Check

Ferguson also proposed a second bill, which creates a new license to purchase and possess assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“I am working hard to advance my proposal to ban assault weapons in the legislature, and that effort will continue,” Ferguson said. “In the meantime, I hope we can pass enhanced background checks in this legislative session with strong bipartisan support.”

Sen. Frockt also sponsored the background-check bill.

Similar to a Concealed Pistol License (CPL), Ferguson’s proposed license limits assault weapons ownership to those over 21 years of age. The current minimum age to purchase an assault weapon is 18. Allen Ivanov, the accused perpetrator of the July 2016 Mukilteo shootings, was 19 when he purchased the AR-15 he allegedly used to murder three former classmates and wound another.

“It is my hope that we can make Washington state safer and reduce the potential for mass shootings here,” said Paul Kramer, father of Will Kramer, one of the Mukilteo survivors. “If our current political leadership doesn’t have the will to pass a ban on the sale of assault weapons, I would support the assault weapons enhanced background check bill as an incremental step towards increasing public safety and reducing gun violence.”

A license would be required for any purchase of an assault weapon or high-capacity magazine. At the time of purchase, an additional in-depth background check would be conducted, and all purchases would be subject to a 10-day waiting period — similar to standard handgun purchases.

The license must be renewed annually to ensure the holder maintains eligibility to possess these weapons and magazines.

Representative Laurie Jinkins, D—Tacoma, is sponsoring a companion House bill.

"With the passage of universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders, Washington voters have emphatically told the legislature they want to make sure dangerous weapons are kept out of the hands of dangerous people,” Jinkins said. “Enhanced background checks for the purchase of assault weapons is another common-sense solution to help us avoid gun violence.  I hope members of the Legislature have been listening to voters on this issue.”


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov