SEATTLE — After years of trying, the Washington state House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that allows the State Patrol to destroy guns they confiscated during criminal investigations.
The measure gives the State Patrol the option available to all other law enforcement agencies in the state — to keep, trade, auction or destroy forfeited crime guns.
Passage by the chamber of House Bill 1010, a holdover from the last session, followed a year-long investigation by The Associated Press that found that more than a dozen weapons sold by state law enforcement agencies turned up in new criminal cases.
One gun sold by the Washington State Patrol was used by an Army veteran to kill himself, the AP found. The bullet went through a wall and narrowly missed his neighbor’s head as she bent down to pull her baby boy out of the bathtub.
The forfeited gun measure, which now goes to the Senate, was one of several gun-control bills that moved forward Thursday.
Passing the measure one day after a shooting in downtown Seattle left one person dead and seven injured “will remind the community that we are taking action against gun violence,” said Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, the bill’s main sponsor.
Several Republican House members spoke against the bill, saying the guns should be sold and the revenues used to buy equipment or to fund the crime lab, but Senn and others successfully argued that it was too risky to put crime guns back on the streets where they could be used against the community or law enforcement officers.
“This is no-brainer sensible gun policy,” Senn said, adding that it had a good chance of also passing the Senate.
Also Thursday, the Senate Law and Justice Committee approved a bill that limits the size of firearm magazines to 10 bullets in order to avoid mass carnage that has been seen during recent mass shootings across the country. It now goes to the full Senate.
When suspects use high-capacity magazines, “it takes seconds to mow down lots and lots of people,” said Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, one of the sponsors of Senate Bill 6077. “We have a gun violence epidemic. I think this bill is going to save lives and I don’t think it’s going to put people in danger.”
Kurder’s comment was in response to concerns raised by several Republican members of the Law and Justice committee, who said the bill would make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves.
Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, recalled testimony this week by women who used a gun to defend themselves.
“They indicated the gun is an equalizer,” she said. If a woman faces more than one attacker, and is only able to fire 10 bullets at a time, it could put her life at risk, she said.
“It’s not up to us to tell a gun owner how many bullets are needed to put down a threat,” she said.
People who own larger magazines at the time of the bill’s final passage will be grandfathered in, but once the bill is in effect, the owners can not sell the magazines to anyone but a licensed gun dealer.
“Nearly two-thirds of Washington voters favor restrictions on high-capacity magazines,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “The people of Washington have been way ahead of the politicians on common-sense firearms reforms. I hope this is the year the Legislature catches up to the people and takes meaningful steps to address mass shootings.”
The committee also approved SB6294, which requires gun safety training for people who apply for a concealed carry permit.
Sen. Jesse Salomon, D-Shoreline, said the bill was not an attempt to limit gun ownership, but instead designed to limit the possibility of accidental gun deaths.