January 10, 2022 Press Releases

What to Know About Gun Violence Ahead of Washington’s 2022 Legislative Session

As Washington communities continue experiencing record levels of gun violence, legislative action is more urgent than ever 

Someone is killed by a gun every 12 hours in Washington state. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and teens in Washington. The epidemic costs the state an average of $5.3 billion every year. These are just a few of the reasons lawmakers must act on gun responsibility in the 2022 legislative session. Additional reasons, and data, can be found here

Washington’s gun violence crisis is not new, but it has grown worse since the start of the pandemic. The state saw record-breaking levels of gun violence in 2020 and initial data suggests that 2021 was even worse. While high-profile mass shootings slowed during the pandemic, everyday gun violence in the form of community violence, domestic violence, and suicide persisted. The communities hardest hit by the pandemic, chiefly BIPOC and low-income communities, have also been hit hardest by the surge in gun violence. 

Washington has made meaningful progress to address the gun violence epidemic. Since 2014, the legislature has passed more than two dozen gun safety bills and citizens have approved three comprehensive ballot measures. During the 2021 legislative session, Washington lawmakers passed 10 community safety bills, including legislation to prohibit open carry at the state capitol and public demonstrations and an historic package of police accountability bills. 

But it is clear that in the face of Washington’s gun violence emergency, bold action and meaningful investments in gun violence prevention are urgently needed. The Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s 2022 Legislative Agenda provides a roadmap for building on recent progress to support a comprehensive public health approach to preventing gun violence. Highlights include: 

PROHIBITING HIGH-CAPACITY MAGAZINES: Excessively large capacity magazines, which can hold more than ten rounds of ammunition, make it easier for a shooter to fire more rounds without pausing to reload, making it easier to shoot more people faster. Whether a state allows high-capacity magazine sales is the single best predictor of the mass shooting rates in that state. Prohibiting these excessively large capacity magazines will reduce the scope of mass shootings in our state and save lives. [SB 5078]

PROTECTING FREE SPEECH FROM FIREARM INTIMIDATION: The open carrying of firearms in politically-charged or contentious environments greatly increases the possibility of deadly violence and produces a chilling effect on First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. In 2021, the legislature took a big step forward by prohibiting open carry at the Capitol, protests, and demonstrations. Extending this safeguard to public meetings, special polling places, and ballot counting locations is a commonsense step that will help reduce the risk of more political violence by firearm in Washington state. [HB 1618 and HB 1630]

CLOSING DANGEROUS GHOST GUN LOOPHOLE: Ghost guns—untraceable, homemade firearms—allow people to circumvent background checks by purchasing components and assembling firearms at home. Current Washington law prohibits the manufacture, sale, or possession of undetectable firearms but doesn’t address untraceable homemade guns. Existing law must be updated to close this deadly loophole. [HB 1705]

ADDRESS INEQUITABLE AND BIASED POLICING: Washington passed an historic package of police accountability legislation in 2021. Together, these bills make much-needed changes that will reduce police violence, increase accountability and transparency, set clear guidance for law enforcement, and improve access to justice. It is crucial that we protect, refine, and build on these policies in close collaboration with BIPOC communities to ensure they are working as intended.

PROTECTING PROGRESS AND CONTINUING MOMENTUM: The financial, social, and political reality of the continued health crisis means that it is more important than ever to protect and build on the strides we’ve made to prevent gun violence in Washington state. This includes closing dangerous loopholes, continuing to align victim protection processes, strengthening our Voluntary Waiver program, creating real accountability for the firearm industry, and increasing funding for public education and community intervention programs through the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention.

You can see the Alliance’s full 2022 Agenda here, and a fact sheet on gun violence in Washington here.