'Gun violence is an epidemic'; WA state leaders announce gun control bills

Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced their plan to stop the growing amount of gun violence in the state. The elected leaders presented two public safety bills that they will jointly propose during the 2023 legislative session.

Inslee said gun violence is now the leading cause of death for young people, above car accidents and cancer. He also said gun violence kills more than 800 Washingtonians a year, with 23 deaths in Nov. 2022 alone.

"Gun violence is an epidemic and it’s going to increase if we do not take action," said Inslee. 

The first bill calls for a ban on the sale, manufacture and importation of assault rifles in the state. This will be the seventh year in a row Ferguson will propose the measure.

The second bill, a new idea, would require gun manufacturers, distributors and sellers to enforce preventative controls so that their guns don’t end up in dangerous hands.

"This is a bill that will ensure that firearms manufacturers and sellers face consequences, liability when they are irresponsible," said Ferguson. "If those weapons get in the wrong hands and the tragic outcomes that we are all too familiar with occur on their watch and as a result of their actions, then these lawsuits can be brought."

Included in the bills will be a proposal to initiate a permit-to-purchase rule. Inslee said Connecticut saw a 40% decrease in gun violence after passing a similar permit-to-purchase bill.

"That will treat guns with the severity that they deserve. You need to get a license to drive a car in the state of Washington, you need to get a license to go fishing. It’s time that you get a license to make sure that you have safety training to purchase a gun in the state of Washington. And it’s high time that we pass a bill to make sure you get a permit before you purchase a firearm," said Inslee.

D’Vonne Pickett Junior lost his life to gun violence on Oct. 19, 2022. A former childhood friend shot him at his place of business in Seattle’s Central District. Police said the suspect in his death was connected to other shootings and violent crimes in the city. Though Inslee’s and Ferguson’s proposals won’t bring him back, his wife said it could prevent others from experiencing similar heartache.

"It’s step forward in a direction and hopefully it’s the right one, because either we’re stagnant and nothing is changing or we’re taking a step somewhere, and we’re trying to work the solutions," said Keanna Rose Pickett, D’vonne’s wife.

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Inslee said he would also propose other bills to address issues that contribute to the rise in gun violence. Those issues include mental health, homelessness and more police training. The legislative session begins Jan. 9, 2023.

FOX 13 News contacted the Washington State Rifle and Pistol Association for comment on the bills and awaiting a response.

Legislators, community organizations, gun violence prevention advocates and victims of gun violence joined Inslee and Ferguson at Monday's event, including: 

  • Ingraham High School student Sofie Blazejova
  • Keanna Pickett, spouse of D’Vonne Pickett Jr., killed in Seattle in October.
  • Sen. Jamie Pedersen, 43rd Legislative District
  • Sen. Patty Kuderer, 48th Legislative District
  • Rep. David Hackney, 11th Legislative District
  • Rep. Strom Peterson, 21st Legislative District
  • Rep. Liz Berry, 36th Legislative District
  • Renee Hopkins, Executive Director for Alliance for Gun Responsibility