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Originally published Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 9:23 PM

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State lawmakers to seek ban on sales of semi-automatic weapons

In response to recent shooting deaths, three state lawmakers say they want to ban the sale of military-style semi-automatic weapons in Washington.

Seattle Times staff reporter

In response to recent shooting deaths, three state lawmakers say they want to ban the sale of military-style semi-automatic weapons in Washington.

The lawmakers intend to propose the ban in the state legislative session that begins next month.

The legislation, called the Aaron Sullivan Public Safety and Police Protection Bill, would prohibit the sale of such weapons to private citizens and require current owners to pass background checks.

It is named for Aaron Sullivan, 18, who was fatally shot last July in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood, allegedly with an assault-style weapon.

Supporters say they also are motivated by the Oct. 31 slaying of Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton and the wounding of his partner. Police believe a .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle was used then.

The bill is backed by Seattle's police department, spokeswoman Renee Witt said. Also pushing it is Washington Ceasefire, a nonprofit that seeks to reduce gun violence. The group plans a news conference today to announce the proposal.

The lawmakers who plan to sponsor the bill are Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina; Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle; and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

The ban would cover semiautomatics designed for military use that are capable of rapid-fire and can hold more than 10 rounds. Semiautomatics designed for sporting or hunting purposes wouldn't be banned.

"If they're used in the army, used in the war — that's what this ban is about," said Ralph Fascitelli, the board president of Washington Ceasefire.

Dave Workman, senior editor of Gun Week, a publication of the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, said such a ban would punish law-abiding citizens who own such guns.

"I don't care if my neighbor has a dozen of the things; ... as long as he's not hurting anyone or breaking any laws, leave him alone," Workman said.

He also said he doesn't consider the gun police say was used to kill Brenton an assault rifle.

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Hunter knows getting the bill through the Legislature would be difficult, because of concerns about limits on gun ownership. However, he thinks the ban is necessary.

"We don't allow people to own tanks or bazookas or machine guns, and very few people think that that's an unreasonable restriction," he said.

Kohl-Welles said the lawmakers are trying to be practical and aren't suggesting guns be taken from current owners.

"What we're trying to get at is there's no place to have sales of military assault rifles or weapons in this state," she said.

She also said she doesn't believe such a ban would violate the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.

"Did the framers of our Constitution ever envision something like a semi-automatic weapon?" she asked.

Molly Rosbach: 206-464-2311 or mrosbach@seattletimes.com

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