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Washington becomes 10th state to ban assault weapons

The new ban represents a big victory for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which has been advocating for gun control in Washington for 10 years.
Washington becomes 10th state to ban assault weapons
Posted at 7:48 PM, May 09, 2023

In his 12 years of being a custom gun maker, Kris Cantrell has never had a busier few weeks than he has recently.

"It was unfortunate that I was that busy because people felt panicked and rushed to get something before it's taken away and they didn't think it could be taken away," Cantrell said. 

In the period between Washington's new assault weapons ban was passed and when it went into effect, he couldn't keep the AR-15 guns he makes on the shelves for long. 

He's a firm supporter of the Second Amendment and believes the law his state has passed is erroneous. 

"Is this gun law gonna stop me from buying another AR? Yeah, 100%. There's no reason that it's gonna stop criminals because they're criminals," Cantrell said.

Civil Liability law passed along with the assault weapon ban means that if someone buys one of Cantrell's guns and commits a heinous crime, he might face some legal penalties. He says his family is worried about whether they should even continue the business.

"Every person I've ever sold a gun to is a law-abiding citizen. And hopefully that continues. I don't know how things snap. I don't know how anyone would ever think that going and shooting a child is gonna fix anything," he said. 

At the Alliance for Gun Responsibility in Seattle, there's a different reaction to the new law — one of hope and relief for the organization that worked on the legislation.

Hazel Brown is the policy and research coordinator for Alliance for Gun Responsibility. 

SEE MORE: House Passes Semi-Automatic Gun Ban After 18-Year Lapse

"Unfortunately more and more people become survivors of gun violence every day. And so as gun violence continues to be a super pervasive issue in our society, I think more and more people are starting to recognize that change needs to happen," Brown said. 

For 10 years, the alliance has been advocating for gun control in Washington state. The recent ban is a big victory for them, along with last year's high-capacity magazine ban. While those who oppose these measures believe this only helps criminals, Hazel Brown believes the opposite.

"To think about policy only through the lens of those that will intentionally break that policy is pretty flawed. We know that so many Washingtonians who own firearms are smart, responsible firearm owners. But, we just need to make sure that everyone is on the same page for how dangerous these weapons are," Brown said. 

This ban makes Washington the 10th state, including the district of Columbia, to put similar measures in place. But the data on the effectiveness of those earlier bans is unclear.

The Rand Corporation looked at several studies on the effectiveness of assault weapons bans in January. What they found is that assault weapons bans have "uncertain effects" on mass shootings, and evidence is inconclusive. It also found that high-capacity magazine bans may decrease mass shootings, but evidence is limited.

SEE MORE: Democrats Push For 1st Semi-Automatic Gun Ban In 20 Years

During the national 1994 ban, which ended in 2004, mass shootings were 70% less likely to occur than today. But Mark Bryant from the Gun Violence Archive says we can't compare then and now because of the increase in guns available compared to then.

"Then when we see, all of a sudden it goes from a blossom of 10 brands to 500 brands and everybody has one or two, or three or four, or five or 10 — suddenly we've got more shootings," Bryant said. 

Bryant believes we need more time to see what kind of impact bans may or may not have, but we all need to continue to work on multi-faceted solutions for this complex problem.

"We have to look at what's the right response on all of this ... Neither fringe is going to be the solution. The solution's gonna come out of the middle," Bryant said. 

For those on polar opposite sides, however, finding common ground may take even more time than gathering and accessing more data.

"We hear very frequently that, you know, guns aren't the issue. And I think I need to be really adamant in saying that, you know — we know that guns are," Brown said.

"I understand the passion behind it. I totally do. If you're a hard left liberal and you hate my guts, I understand. Is it misguided? 100%," Cantrell said. 

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