As a result of the shooting deaths of three Seattle residents with assault weapons in as many months -- among them Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton -- Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, says he will propose a bill when the Legislature convenes in January, attempting to instate a law similar to the now-expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
"It looks like to me a trend. Three murders in a row. It tells me that five years after the federal ban expired they are entering commerce and not just commerce, but criminal commerce," Kline told SeattleCrime.Com earlier today.
As the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kline is in position to occupy a bully pulpit on the issue -- especially following the slaying of Officer Brenton, which could provide some momentum to a practically untouchable issue in Legislature.
As defined by the old federal ban, assault weapons are semi-automatic rifles that are often developed from a fully automatic design. For example, The AR-15 rifle-- the model police believe was used in Brenton's slaying -- is based on the design of the M-16 military assault rifle. In some cases assault weapons can be modified to become fully automatic rifles. The old federal ban prohibited the sale of assault weapon, which were defined as semi-automatic rifles sharing multiple characteristics with fully-automatic weapons.
But the prospect of pushing gun legislation on rural Washington residents is not something that lawmakers take kindly to -- especially in the House, where House Speaker Frank Chopp has built a super majority status by getting rural Democrats, who are decidedly less liberal than their urban counterparts, elected.
Maybe it's just the Western ethos, but once you get outside the urban centers, Washington residents really like their guns. And sometimes you don't even have to leave the urban centers. Last year signs featuring a picture of President Obama hung behind the counter of Wade's Eastside Guns in Bellevue, declaring that "In these uncertain times, all sales are final."
Kline, who doesn't hunt but is an avid angler, was explicitly clear that he has no desire to take away "Uncle Bud's hunting rifle."
He says assault weapons aren't any good for hunting unless you want to make hamburger meat out of an animal while still on the trail.
But the twin forces of rural democrats facing re-election next year, and what Kline calls the "usual drivel from the NRA," are powerful obstacles to overcome.
In the past Kline himself has questioned the political feasibility of trying to get gun restrictions through the Legislature. Two years-ago he sounded a little deflated when he talked to Jonah for an article that ran in The Stranger:
"Over the last 30 years, the National Rifle Association has created a body of political opinion that is reflexive to any control on guns," says State Senator Adam Kline (D-37). Kline has sponsored two bills to curb access to guns, but, he says, even "fairly moderate" measures tend to die in committee. Kline is pragmatic about the situation. "I have to ask myself: Do I want to fight that battle, or do I want to work on stuff that I think I can win on?" he says. "It may be chickenhearted for legislators to give up on this battle, but you just can't win."
When asked about the sensibility of banning guns from courtrooms and bars, but not colleges, Kline took a shot at progun legislators. "This is not a matter of sense; this is a matter of legislation," he said. "Legislators don't need to make sense."
This year he says his odds are looking better, "but I certainly don't see it as a slam dunk."
Calls placed to the Washington State Rifle and Pistol Association were not immediately returned.