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Originally published Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 9:01 AM

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Assault weapons ban likely to fail

After 2009 ended in a hail of high-profile gun violence, Washington state's gun-control advocates are frustrated by an apparent lack of political support for an assault weapons ban, warning that the state will likely face more deadly shootings without it.

Associated Press Writer

OLYMPIA, Wash. —

After 2009 ended in a hail of high-profile gun violence, Washington state's gun-control advocates are frustrated by an apparent lack of political support for an assault weapons ban, warning that the state will likely face more deadly shootings without it.

The bill comes just weeks after a spate of deadly police shootings, and proponents of the ban say those killings should force politicians to confront gun violence.

"There's more guns, a repressed economy and a lot of angry people," said Ralph Fascitelli, board chairman for state gun control group Washington Ceasefire. "You can't sweep this problem under a rug. Apparently the shooting of eight police isn't enough to confront gun violence in the state."

The bill was named in honor of 18-year-old Aaron Sullivan, who was shot and killed by a SKS 7.62-caliber rifle in Seattle in July. The legislation focuses on "military-style" assault weapons, which can fire rapidly and carry large magazines of ammunition.

Similar bans have not fared well in the state Legislature in the past, and in an election year, supporters face a battle to even get the bill out of committee.

"I will do everything I can to pass this bill this year," said Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, the sponsor of the bill and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday.

Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, said she is mobilizing with other lawmakers against the bill. Since it was announced, her office has received more than 1,000 e-mails asking the Senate to defeat it, Roach said. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure (Kline) doesn't diminish the Second Amendment right," she said.

The National Rifle Association and the Citizen's Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms are also lobbying against it.

Alan Gottlieb, the director of the Citizen's Committee and the Second Amendment Foundation, said he is confident the bill will fail. Not many Democrats, especially those in more conservative districts, want to come out against gun rights in an election year, he said.

"It's extreme," Gottlieb said. "I am kind of surprised they put it in, because it riles up our people."

The bill could have a tough time getting out of Kline's committee, which has five Democrats and three Republicans. One of the Democrats, Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam, says he will vote no.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said she has not reviewed the bill or closely followed its process, instead choosing to focus on the group of bills that came in response to recent police shooting, including better communication between law enforcement on jail bookings and releases, a review of the bail bonds system, and enhanced benefits for survivors of officers who die in the line of duty.

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Sponsors said the bill is similar to the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. It would cover an array of different pistols, shotguns and rifles, including semiautomatic rifles with large ammunition magazines and pistol-grip stocks.

"We're trying to protect the police, we're trying to protect the youth and this is one step to prevent gun violence," Fascitelli said.

Owners of weapons affected by the bill would be able to keep them if they allow the local sheriff's department to inspect and make sure they are stored "safely and securely." The weapons can still be used at firing ranges.

"We're not going to take away anybody's weapon," Kline said. "There will be zero confiscation of weapons, but there will be no new weapons allowed."

The bill has been endorsed by groups such as Washington Ceasefire, the International Association of Police Chiefs, the Jewish Federation of Seattle and the United African Political Action Committee, among others. Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson said the department has not taken a position on the bill.

Supporters also have referenced the murder of Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton, who was shot to death in his patrol car on Halloween. Police have said they found an assault rifle at the apartment of Christopher Monfort, the man charged with killing Brenton.

Four Lakewood police officers slain in November were shot with handguns, as were two Pierce County deputies who were ambushed in December. One of the deputies later died from his injuries.

Roach, however, said such high-profile gun crimes are not about the weapons that were used, but the people using them. The crimes show the need for people to defend themselves with firearms, she said.

"Trying to pull in sympathies of the tragedies that occurred recently does not address the underlying issue, which is someone being able to protect themselves in those situations," Roach said.

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The Aaron Sullivan Public Safety and Police Protection Bill is Senate Bill 6396.

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On the Net:

Legislature: http://www.leg.wa.gov

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