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'Gun violence is an epidemic': Inslee, lawmakers proposing bills to reduce gun violence

Gov. Inslee said over 800 Washingtonians are killed a year because of gun violence.

SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and a number of state legislators discussed several proposals on Monday afternoon aimed at curbing gun violence in Washington state.

Inslee said over 800 Washingtonians are killed a year because of gun violence. It's the leading cause of death for young people, ahead of car accidents and cancer, Inslee said. 

"Gun violence is an epidemic and it will increase if we do not take action," Inslee said at a press conference on Monday afternoon.

Inslee said state lawmakers are planning several bills in the upcoming 2023 legislative session. The governor called the proposed permit to purchase bill the best action in legislators' efforts next year.

Inslee said Connecticut passed a similar permit-to-purchase bill and saw a 40% decrease in gun violence. States that reversed course, Inslee said, had a 60% increase in gun violence.

Rep. Liz Berry (D-36th District) said there will be a mandatory 10-day waiting period and training requirement to purchase firearms in the state if the bill is passed. 

“No one should be shot to death – at work, at school, at church or at the grocery store," Berry said. "We will hold the gun industry responsible for all the families it has destroyed.”

Regarding the permit-to-purchase proposal, a spokesperson for the Second Amendment Foundation responded with a statement that in part said, "gun owners will argue that no other constitutionally-protected right requires a permission slip from the police before a citizen can exercise it."

An assault rifle ban is also in the works for state legislators. This will be the seventh year in a row a bill that would ban the purchase of assault rifles in Washington state is discussed on the House floor. 

None of the previous bills have passed despite efforts.

“We need to ban these weapons of war," said Rep. Strom Peterson (D-21st District. "We’ve been trying. We’ve been failing but I think this is the year to do it because the people are speaking.”

Despite the years-long effort to pass gun violence prevention bills, Inslee said he feels there is a "fair shot" of the proposals making their way through the legislature in 2023.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said multiple states have already banned the sale of assault rifles and the bills have been upheld as constitutional in the courts. 

Ferguson said he feels confident the state's proposed gun violence bills in 2023 would survive potential lawsuits if the legislation is passed. 

Renee Hopkins, executive director for Alliance for Gun Responsibility, said the foundation's legislative agenda for 2023 is its "boldest yet."

Washington will begin its 2023 legislative session on Jan. 9.

“Gun violence is a complex, multi-faceted public health issue that requires a comprehensive approach," Hopkins said. "We are not backing down, because gun violence continues to take a devastating toll on our communities in every corner of Washington state."

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