Dear friends and neighbors,
The 2022 legislative session ended on March 10 after a busy and productive 60 days in Olympia. We finished the session on time for the fifth year in a row. We made remarkable progress on many fronts, including an innovative $17 billion transportation package, major investments in public schools, over $500 million to create more housing and services for homeless people, and measures to address the climate crisis. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sending newsletters focused on the work we did in each of these areas this session. This first newsletter will detail the progress we have made together to reduce gun violence and improve public safety in our state.
Gun Violence Prevention
Reducing gun violence in our community and state has been one of my primary objectives in the Legislature for the 10 years since the Sandy Hook shooting. Since Democrats took back control of the Washington State Senate in 2018, we’ve made steady progress on common-sense gun safety measures. Voters passed ballot measures to extend background checks to private sales and keep guns away from those who are at risk of hurting themselves or others. In recent years, the legislature banned bump stocks; added domestic violence harassment to the list of conditions that prevent people from buying a firearm; adopted a first-in-nation measure to let people struggling with mental illness place themselves on a firearms do-not-purchase list; and prohibited open carry of firearms at public demonstrations.
In 2022, we made meaningful progress with several important measures:
- Banning large capacity magazines: After years of work by community members and advocates, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5078 to prohibit the sale, attempted sale, manufacture and distribution of high-capacity magazines. The evidence is overwhelming that this policy will save lives and prevent tragedies such as the ones we experienced in Mukilteo and Burlington. Washington joins nine other states that block the sale of magazines with more than 10 rounds. The passage of this bill makes me proud to live in a state that chooses public safety over the gun lobby.
- Restricting ghost guns: Untraceable weapons (sometimes called ‘ghost guns’) are commonly assembled at home with parts purchased without any background checks. House Bill 1705 will restrict the manufacture, assembly, sale, purchase, or possession of these untraceable firearms. The bill will also establish standards for marking untraceable firearms with serial numbers so they can be identified and tracked.
- Restricting weapons at public meetings: A healthy democracy depends on public meeting spaces where people may speak without fear or intimidation. House Bill 1630 will ban the open carry of firearms and other weapons at local government and school board meetings. The bill will also prohibit the possession of firearms in election-related offices and facilities.
In the 2021 session, after the killings of George Floyd, Manny Ellis, and many others, the legislature passed more than a dozen new laws to help rebuild trust between police and the communities that they serve. You can read more about that work here. As those bills went into effect this past summer, we learned that we needed to clarify or correct some provisions in the bills regarding police use of force (House Bill 1310) and police tactics (House Bill 1054).
This session, the legislature passed House Bill 1735, which clarifies that police may use force to place someone in crisis into involuntary treatment, to place minors in protective custody, to execute a court order, or otherwise to exercise community caretaking functions. We also passed House Bill 1719, which amends the prohibition on police use of military equipment to allow police to use less lethal alternatives, such as beanbag rounds. I supported both of these bills, which were broadly agreed among both police groups and members of the Coalition for Police Accountability.
I opposed two other bills that did not have that broad agreement. House Bill 2037 allows police to use force on people whom they perceive to be fleeing investigative detentions – even for non-criminal offenses and even when the person does not have actual knowledge of being detained. I offered an amendment in the Senate Law & Justice Committee, which was adopted, to correct those defects. On the Senate floor, that amendment was removed from the bill and so I voted no. The bill passed anyway.
Senate Bill 5919 would have undone last year’s restrictions on vehicular pursuits. I believe that those restrictions have saved lives and opposed undoing them. On the last day of session, after much discussion, the Senate Democrats decided not to bring that bill back to the floor for a vote on the House amendments. As a result, the bill died. We will have more time to evaluate whether the changes we made in House Bill 1054 are working.
We had thousands of people sign in to share their voice on these measures in the Senate Law & Justice Committee. I want to acknowledge all of the families whose lives have been touched by gun violence and police violence and the large community of dedicated advocates for being so persistent and passionate about these issues. Your efforts are saving lives in our state.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update. Please reach out to me with any questions or concerns.
Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District