AN APPEAL FOR STRICTER GUN LAWS
Just over a month ago, a 19-year-old walked into his former high school in Parkland, Fla., with an AR-15 rifle and killed 17 people.
The response to this shooting has been different than what we’ve seen before. Since the incident, surviving students, as well as students throughout the country, have walked out of class in protest, hoping that legislators will finally listen and put tighter restrictions on the purchase of guns.
Their efforts have gotten results. On March 9, a bill was passed in the state of Florida raising the gun purchase age from 18 to 21. Additionally, some stores have decided not to wait for law changes and have banned the sale of guns to people under 21 years of age.
Currently in Washington state, there is no required license or permit to obtain a rifle or shotgun. You merely need to be 18 or older, provide your ID, pass a background check (which can take just a few minutes if your record is clean) and pay the purchase price.
Based on this, one could have a new rifle or shotgun at their disposal in the same day. The rules for handguns are a bit more restrictive, though, with the purchase age being over 21, and the requirement of an application and a waiting period if one doesn’t already have a concealed weapons permit.
The laws in place today seem to be more protective of second amendment rights, rather than for public health and safety. People are concerned about their right to bear arms, but they seem more concerned with keeping their guns than saving lives.
However the government does intervene on certain issues concerning our health and safety, and puts restrictions into place for our protection. Let’s examine some of these items and compare to the current gun laws in place.
The rifle used in the Parkland shooting is legal in Washington. This is a .24 caliber, semi-automatic weapon, meaning the gun automatically reloads but the shooter needs to pull the trigger for each shot.
The bullets are too small for what is required of a big game hunting rifle. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, a .24 caliber rifle is legal for big game hunting, but due to the “lack of knockdown power” (meaning the animal may not be killed upon contact, thus being inhumane and inefficient) many hunters use larger caliber rifles.
However, this gun has been involved in mass murders in our state.
In 2016, three people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a house party in Mukilteo. Even as recently as last September, a 15-year old brought two guns to his school in Spokane and opened fire, killing one person and injuring three others. One of the guns he brought was an AR-15, but the shooter discarded it when it jammed. Had that not been the case, one can only imagine how many more victims there could have been.
Alcohol and legal marijuana
Washington law prohibits the sale of alcohol to people under 21 years of age. Same goes for the green stuff — you must be 21 to legally purchase and possess for non-medical purposes.
A teenager not old enough for these substances could legally obtain a rifle even before graduating high school.
I’ve tried several times to adopt an animal and it isn’t easy. Not only do you have to fill out a multi-page application, but you have to wait for the agency to get back to you, which could take a few days. Most agencies also send someone out to take a look at your home and make sure that the place is fit for an animal (i.e. proper fencing, etc.).
The kicker that disqualified me on multiple occasions? At the time, my husband and I were both working full-time jobs, so according to adoption agencies we weren’t able to be home enough for the new pet. Despite the fact that we could provide an environment where the animal would be greatly spoiled and doted on when we were home, we couldn’t adopt a pet.
No house visits to examine safe gun storage are required for the purchase of any gun in this state, or others. However, in Australia, police can randomly check someone’s home to make sure citizens are abiding by proper gun storage laws, and if they aren’t, their guns could be seized.
That Scottish delicacy of sheep heart, liver and lung encased in sheep’s stomach has been illegal in the United States since 1971. The sheep lung is the culprit — a disease known as scrapie, which affects the central nervous system of these fluffy farm friends, caused a scare in the U.S., as officials were worried the disease could transmit to humans, and thus the ban began.
Although guns also pose a threat to health, they are still being used.
Have a hankering to get up close and personal with your fellow sea creatures via scuba diving? If you plan to become PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certified, the process involves some online courses as well as live training which includes a series of pool and open water dives. This process can take 3 to 4 days, but instructors want to make sure the individuals are comfortable in open water, so the process may take longer if needed.
Instruction and training courses on the use of firearms before purchase? Not required. One could simply purchase a gun without ever having shot one before, given they pass the background test and waiting period (if purchasing a handgun).
To qualify for a hunter’s permit in the state of Washington, a 10-hour course is required first. On top of that, one is then required to pass a field-skills evaluation in which they are observed by an instructor and need to prove they can load, fire and store a gun properly. The student can actually be failed for demonstrating “egregious muzzle control” (listed on the evaluation form) or a bad attitude.
Imagine if these rules applied to the purchase of a gun in the first place, what results would we see?
And although a federal background check is required in Washington for the purchase of rifles and shotguns, not all states properly report mental health information to the federal government, so it can go undetected in background checks. Additionally, an Obama-era regulation that would have placed tighter restrictions on gun sales to those with mental health issues was rescinded by President Trump almost exactly a year before the date of the Parkland shooting.
It is illegal for raw, or unpasteurized, milk to be sold in stores in 39 of the 50 states. Pasteurization is a process that involves heating milk to high temperatures in order to kill any potential bacteria that may have contaminated the milk-providing animal.
Washington is one state that allows the sale of raw milk in both stores and restaurants, however warning labels are required to indicate the risks of consumption.
Warning labels on guns? Not so much.
Cold & flu meds
It’s that time of year — viral infections run amok, especially in crowded places. All you want is some quick relief by popping that orange liquid-filled gel cap. But it’s not that easy. Medicines that contain the chemical compounds ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine are locked up behind pharmacy counters.
For those of you who have seen Breaking Bad, you know it’s because these ingredients are used to make meth. In order to obtain meds such as Sudafed, one must ask the pharmacist, show ID, and then have their name placed on a list as they are limited to what they can purchase for the month.
And while there is no monthly limit on guns in this state, if one does purchase two or more at a given retailer, the retailer has to report the sale to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Some states have implemented laws where only one gun a month is allowed for purchase (generally handguns, as most laws don’t include rifles or shotguns in this count). Washington has no such restrictions in place.
Acceptance into SCC or transfer schools
This one isn’t health related, but worth noting as it can take some time.
The application process to SCC is fairly quick. I recall it taking about three or four days for me to hear back on whether or not I’d been accepted. Still, this is longer than it takes to get a rifle in this state. Additionally, if you are applying to transfer to a 4-year college, the wait time to hear on acceptance can be much, much longer, up to four to six months.
Bottom line — you can purchase multiple guns in Washington in the time it takes to hear if you were accepted to a 4-year transfer school.
The conversation on guns and gun safety has always seemed to be a heated topic. And while the government, both at a federal and state level, has put into place limitations on other activities that pose a threat to the general public’s health and safety, it is clear with these continued mass shootings that not enough is being done about firearms.
In our own state, several recently proposed bills that would tighten current gun laws are awaiting legislative approval, with one already signed into law. On March 6, Governor Jay Inslee passed a bill that bans bump stocks — an attachment for semi-automatic weapons that enables them to fire at a faster pace. Another bill that would increase the age of assault rifle purchases from 18 to 21 is also making its way through the state legislative process.
It appears as though our state is making some progress.
The vocalizations of students throughout the nation seems to be making a difference in some states as well as retail stores. Students across the nation participated in a walkout on March 14 in order to get the attention of lawmakers. We have yet to see what impact, if any, these students’ actions will have on federal law.
It is clear that more measures are necessary to keep guns out of the hands of those with intentions to harm and murder others. Measures such as banning assault weapons, raising the gun purchase age to 21, tightening background checks and requiring training or behavioral testing could help prevent these mass murders we hear about all too often. It seems a small price to pay in order to protect law-abiding citizens, second amendment rights and lives.
By Kristen Clark,