U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Legislation pre-filed by two urban Democrats in the Washington State House of Representatives would prohibit law enforcement agencies from acquiring or using “any military equipment,” but sharp-eyed gun rights activists are concerned about what the bill defines as “military equipment” and how this bill could be a camel’s nose under the tent to ultimately impact law-abiding private citizens.
It could also have national implications, as noted by KXLY News in Spokane, which reported, “After a year that included calls for changes in police tactics nationwide, the Washington legislature could consider a bill that would limit law enforcement officers from using controversial police tactics like chokeholds and tear gas… Spokane Police admitted to using tear gas on protesters in downtown Spokane in the wake of George Floyd’s death last summer.”
How House Bill 1054 is written has ignited a spirited discussion at the Washington 2021 Legislative Action Group’s Facebook page. Here’s why, Paragraph 2 in Section 5:
“For the purposes of this section, “military equipment” means firearms and ammunition of .50 caliber or greater, machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles, armed or armored helicopters, armed or armored drones, armed vessels, armed vehicles, armed aircraft, tanks, mine resistant ambush protected vehicles, long range acoustic hailing devices, rockets, rocket launchers, bayonets, grenades, grenade launchers, missiles, directed energy systems, and electromagnetic spectrum weapons.”
More than one participant has noted that a 12-gauge shotgun is greater than .50-caliber. Silencers are legally owned by a number of Evergreen State citizens who now wonder about future legislation to ban or heavily regulate “military equipment.” Also, many police agencies allow the use of AR15s as “patrol rifles” and the 12-gauge shotgun has been standard police equipment for generations.
Washington gun owners are all aware that Initiative 1639 defined—for the first time anywhere in the nation—a “semiautomatic assault rifle” as “any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.” This covers any self-loading rifle ever manufactured, even those chambered for the .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge. There are no exceptions or exemptions. A Ruger 10/22, Marlin Model 60, Remington Nylon 66 or Browning SA-22 all fall within the definition. It took years for silencers to become legal and they don’t want to lose that through incremental legislation.
HB 1054 is sponsored by Reps. Jesse Johnson (D-30th District) and Debra Entenman (D-47th District). So far, the discussion at the Legislative Action groups Facebook Page has drawn more than 130 comments.
Opinions are mixed. While some respondents agree police shouldn’t be “militarized” with surplus equipment, others see this as a move to defang rather than defund police, who might be unable to quell riots with known non-lethal means, including tear gas. During the summer of 2020, following the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police, Seattle and other cities experienced destructive protests. Police occasionally declared these protests to be riots.
One participant in the Legislative Action Group’s discussion observed, “It appears the writers did not take into account most less-lethal standoff munitions utilize the 40mm platform. As it reads, it sounds like beanbags will be banned, as stated above, a 12-gauge shotgun is over .50 cal. So, what are the options for the sword-wielding subject standing in a busy intersection? This is doing away with safe alternatives, and I feel we will be forced to utilize deadly force. As usual, the writers of these bills have never been in these situations, nor have they even once attempted to see how police operate. Knee jerk reactions get people hurt…”
Another man wrote, “More restrictions, more changing the definition of firearms and accessories. These changing descriptions is leading up to a major restriction in the possession of assault weapons, (any semiauto firearm) and military equipment. Look out if you don’t have your eyes wide open.”
Seattle-based gun prohibitionists have acknowledged the Evergreen State is considered a legislative petri dish where various gun control measures are tried before they are suggested elsewhere around the country. Might the same strategy now apply to how liberal politicians in other states will place further restrictions on law enforcement, making police less able to deal with criminal violence? Washington appears to be a state everyone watches, perhaps just to see how far the Far Left can push state policy.
Gun sales have already spiked because of public concerns about violent demonstrations while city governments have been at least partly defunding their police agencies. Continued gun sales might be one unintended consequence of this proposal, and perhaps migrations of police officers and sheriffs’ deputies out of the state could follow.
But is this the time for a discussion about curbing police militarization? Do municipal law enforcement agencies need armored personnel carriers? Have police forgotten they are civilian law enforcement, not soldiers and has the media helped exacerbate this misunderstanding by referring to private citizens as “civilians” when reporting on police activities?
Perhaps it is time to turn the heat up on what appears to be a simmering debate. As this debate unfolds in Washington’s 2021 legislative session, the public presumably will have the opportunity to weigh in.
The Washington Legislature is scheduled to convene on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.
About Dave Workman