Source: Google News
(The Center Square) – Washington State Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, says lawmakers need to give police more abilities to crack down on gang violence rather than targeting law-abiding gun owners trying to defend themselves.
“Washington citizens know that in order to protect themselves and their families, they need to be able to carry firearms,” Fortunato said during a Wednesday afternoon virtual press conference responding to Democratic gun initiatives in the state Legislature. “The people that we are worried about are not law-abiding citizens. By restricting law-abiding citizens’ ability to defend themselves, we let criminals reign supreme.”
At a press conference last month, Gov. Jay Inslee said he is asking the Legislature to pass three gun-control measures, including permit-to-purchase legislation requiring prospective gun buyers to apply directly to a state or local law enforcement agency to obtain a purchase permit prior to approaching any seller. Such a law would make firearms training a requirement for getting the permit.
The other two measures are a prohibition on the sale, manufacture, or importation of so-called military-style assault weapons and legislation to ensure that firearms manufacturers and sellers face liability if they fail “to establish, implement and enforce reasonable controls in the manufacture, sale, distribution and marketing of firearms.” The bill also makes provisions allowing victims to sue when the firearms industry fails to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals.
Fortunato focused on the latter two proposals at his press conference.
On the legislation to ban assault weapons, the senator said proponents are playing word games.
“Now, we are being told, for example, that these laws – these proposals to ban firearms, rather than focus on the actual person pulling the trigger – they want to focus on a scary term: assault weapon,” Fortunato said. “There is nobody that uses that term except anti-gun people. It is a made-up term.”
“Assault weapon” is a controversial term with no universally-accepted definition, but generally describes semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines and “military” features like pistol grips, flash suppressors, and collapsible or folding stocks.
Fortunato’s take was backed up by Marylisa Priebe-Olson, a former sex crimes detective with the King County Sheriff’s Office.
“The governor’s agenda to ban assault weapons – stand by, because they are in the process of reimagining and redefining what an assault weapon is,” she said.
Priebe-Olson questioned lawmakers’ overall approach to gun crime.
“If the legislators and elected officials were serious about stopping gun crime, they would treat the people arrested for gun crimes seriously,” she said. “They are not. Indeed, they are doing the exact opposite.”
Fortunato was also critical of the legislation intended to ensure that gun manufacturers and sellers face the consequences for irresponsible practices and let guns fall into the wrong hands, characterizing it as an attempt to bankrupt the gun industry.
“That means the Ford Motor Company and GM are responsible for drunk drivers killing people,” he quipped.
What would best help reduce gun crime in Washington, according to Fortunato, is legislation giving police the ability to enforce laws against gang violence.
“The cities of Seattle and Tacoma are having record numbers of shootings, no doubt caused by surges in gang violence,” said Robert Lurry of the King County Police Officers Guild, making it clear he was speaking on behalf of himself and the guild, not as a county employee.
Data from the Seattle Police Department shows there were 38 shooting deaths in 2022, which is 23% more than the previous year. There were 151 shootings with injuries.
There were more than 40 homicides in Tacoma in 2022.
Fortunato stressed the self-defense aspect of firearms.
“Our state constitution has a provision that is stronger than the Second Amendment,” he noted.
Article I, Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution states, “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”
In 2019, Fortunato pushed a bill that would require legislators who want to draft gun legislation to pass the state’s criminal justice firearms training for each firearm they wish to regulate. The bill didn’t even get a hearing.
That mentality came through at the press conference.
“If they want to regulate firearms, I suggest that they go back and look at the history and understand how firearms actually work and what they do to provide that ability to defend yourself – and your family, by the way,” Fortunato said.