Politics & Government

With Mukilteo killings in mind, state attorney general asks state to ban assault weapons

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks to The Olympian editorial board Jan. 19, 2016.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks to The Olympian editorial board Jan. 19, 2016. sbloom@theolympian.com

Five weeks after a 19-year-old with a newly purchased AR-15 rifle killed three young adults and wounded another in Mukilteo, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson called on the Legislature to ban assault weapons in Washington.

Ferguson on Wednesday said he hopes such a law could prevent mass shootings like the one in Mukilteo. Police say Allen Christopher Ivanov, 19, told investigators after the shooting he was angry that his ex-girlfriend, Anna Bui, was moving on after the two broke up.

Bui was killed in the shooting, as were Jordan Ebner and Jacob Long. All three were 19 years old.

“Massacres like this have become all too common across our country,” Ferguson told reporters.

At a Seattle news conference Wednesday, Ferguson said he would offer a measure in the next legislative session to bar sales of AR-15 rifles and other assault weapons in Washington. The bill would also allow only 10 rounds of ammunition in gun magazines.

There is currently no limit on magazine capacity in Washington, according to Ferguson’s office.

Ferguson was joined Wednesday by a handful of Democratic state lawmakers and other local officials and community members.

The parents of Will Kramer, 18, who was wounded in the Mukilteo shooting, also spoke in favor of Ferguson’s bill.

“I want to speak out against the disgrace and insanity of our government continuing to allow military-style assault rifles to be easily available for purchase despite the increasing frequency of these shootings,” said Kramer’s mother, Liz Raemont, at the news conference.

She later added: “They’re the weapon of choice of our country’s mass murderers.”

State Sen. David Frockt, a Democrat from Seattle, told reporters that people who legally own assault weapons would be grandfathered in under the proposed law. Supporters of the bill haven’t decided exactly how they will define which guns will be banned by the legislation.

Seven states, including California, have some form of an assault weapon ban while two states regulate assault weapons without banning them, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Other gun regulation advocates in Washington have been pushing a statewide initiative that would allow courts to temporarily suspend a person’s access to guns if there is evidence they’re a threat to themselves or others. The temporary gun bans are known as “extreme-risk protection orders.”

Initiative 1491 is on the November election ballot and has the support of Seattle entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.

Measures similar to I-1491 and Ferguson’s legislation have been proposed by state lawmakers in recent years, but have failed to pass the Legislature.

Ferguson’s bill will undoubtedly face similar opposition.

Senator Mike Padden, a Republican from Spokane Valley, said he’s “skeptical” of the ban, saying people use the assault weapons for sport and could use them as protection from criminals with guns.

“The idea that terrorists and criminals would have the weapon and some law-abiding citizens would not bothers me,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Padden is the chairman of the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee — the likely first stop in the Senate for Ferguson’s bill.

Padden noted some gun regulation bills haven’t passed even the Democrat-controlled House in recent years. He said Ferguson’s legislation would have to do so in order for him to consider holding a hearing on it.

Ferguson said he was committed to passing the measure at the Capitol, rather than an initiative like I-1491, to force lawmakers to take a public stance on the issue.

“Yes or no?” he said. “You don’t get to abstain, you don’t get to take a pass — you’re accountable.”

Walker Orenstein: 360-786-1826, @walkerorenstein

The Associated Press contributed to this report