It has been 108 days since Stephen Paddock rained gunfire upon a concert-going crowd in Las Vegas and killed 58 people. Since then, Congress has considered the South Carolina Peanut Parity Act and the Ceiling Fan Energy Conservation Harmonization Act, but has done little to acknowledge that firearms annually result in more than 30,000 deaths in the United States.
Because of this head-in-the-sand attitude at the national level, the Legislature is wise to consider a proactive approach to the scourge that is gun violence. This country’s inability to address such a damaging public health issue represents a shameful commentary on our priorities.
Consider the issue of bump stocks, which officials say contributed to the carnage in Las Vegas. The killer used the trigger modification, which allows a semi-automatic weapon to act as a machine gun, in perpetrating the most deadly mass shooting in recent U.S. history. Following the Las Vegas massacre, there was much public attention given to bump stocks, with Congress vowing action and the National Rifle Association favoring some sort of limitation on the devices. For the NRA, it was an acknowledgement that bump stocks are the low-hanging fruit of gun control and that limitations had widespread support. But as the furor died down, the issue quietly disappeared. Out of sight, out of mind, easily ignored by lawmakers.
Since then, Congress has spent time on the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow people with concealed-carry permits to carry weapons in any state regardless of that state’s laws. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, voted in favor of the legislation, which passed the House of Representatives and was sent along to the Senate. Congress responded to the Las Vegas massacre not by considering common-sense gun legislation, but by working to ease gun control. The incongruity is mind-boggling.
With the Legislature convening, several bills related to firearms have been introduced, including Senate Bill 5992. This would ban certain trigger modifications such as bump stocks. Other bills before the Senate Law and Justice Committee include, as reported by The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review:
• Senate Bill 5444, which calls for enhanced background checks and licenses for anyone purchasing a military-style semi-automatic rifle and large-capacity magazine.
• Senate Bill 6049, which would ban most magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
• And Senate Bill 6146, which would allow local governments to have stricter gun-control laws than the state.
The key to any proposal is common sense. Allowing local governments to impose stricter laws, for example, would be nonsensical and difficult to enforce. But it is well past time for this country to have a reasoned debate about methods for reducing its daily carnage. Suggesting that nothing can be done to reduce gun violence — or suggesting that more than 500 annual gun deaths in Washington are acceptable — represents a moral failing.
On Friday, a well-armed crowd of about 100 gun-rights advocates gathered on the steps of the Legislative Building in Olympia and shouted “Shame!” as prospective bills were read aloud. They are entitled to their opinions, and their advocacy is to be admired. But the real shame surrounding gun violence is our unwillingness to do anything about it.