Washington state legislature considers 4 new gun control bills

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The group behind statewide gun control measures like I-1639 is back with what it’s calling its most robust legislative agenda to date.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee heard dozens of arguments for and against four gun control bills presented to them Monday. The Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility is behind the measures.

The topic is so contentious that hundreds of citizens signed up to speak to the committee. They filled up the assigned hearing room and overflowed into two others.

"My now-husband Kyle and I dove to the ground each time a new rapid round of gunfire sprayed us," testified Emily Cantrell, a Las Vegas concert shooting survivor. "And we ran for our lives in the seconds in between."

Cantrell spoke in support of Senate Bill 5062, which would ban the sale of large-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

"My mother, a former marine and school psychologist in the Tri-Cities, was beaten and shot by her then-husband with a .45-caliber pistol," said Rory Graves, advocating for Senate Bill 5143, which would authorize law enforcement to remove firearms and ammunition during and after domestic violence incidents.

A high school senior spoke out against so-called undetectable firearms, like 3-D printed guns, addressed in Senate Bill 5061, and others called for concealed carry license training mandated in Senate Bill 5174.

Ami Strahan spoke out for her 15-year-old son, Sam, who was killed by a school shooter at Spokane Valley's Freeman High School in 2017.

"If I can’t have him, I have to do something for him," she said. "It’s been awful, right, it’s been an awful, awful year and a half."

The day her son died, the shooter tried to fire an assault rifle but it jammed. So he pulled out a pistol, killing Sam and injuring three others.

"Can you imagine if the gun didn’t jam?" Strahan said. "What would have happened in that hallway? Full of students. It jammed."

She is in support of all four bills and spoke on behalf of the bill banning large-capacity magazines.

Jane Milhans, a survivor of home invasion and a women's firearms instructor, is fighting to keep large-capacity magazines legal.

"She may need more than 10 rounds," Milhans said of a woman who may fall victim to home invasion, like she did. "If it does take more, making that woman load in another magazine in those seconds are so critical. In a home invasion, those seconds could kill her if she has to reload."

Milhans teaches NRA-certified concealed carry courses, but is also against the bill mandating concealed carry training, citing the expense of some courses and the waiting period when classes fill up.

As with most gun control proposals, the fight in Olympia this legislative session will likely be heated, with groups like the Alliance for Gun Responsibility on one side and the National Rifle Association on the other.

"My plan is to fight the good fight," said Brett Bass, a firearms instructor at Bellevue Gun Club. "The demographic trends here aren’t that great if you’re in my line of work."

"Our strategy is to continue pushing laws that we know Washingtonians expect their legislatures to pass," said Renee Hopkins of Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

While Hopkins' group had success passing gun control measures with ballot initiative I-1639 -- which raised the purchasing age of assault rifles, expanded background checks and required gun storage -- it continues to be challenged in the courts.