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'None of these laws will stop any crime': Washington firearms trainer blasts sweeping semiautomatic rifle ban

A firearms instructor says Washington's forthcoming ban on many semiautomatic rifles won't put a dent in crime, but will hurt competitive shooters and other gun owners.

A firearms instructor condemned Washington lawmakers for voting to ban the sale, manufacture and import of a wide array of guns in the state.

"Both sides, I think, want the same thing," Jane Milhans, a Washington State Rifle and Pistol Association board member, told Fox News. "We both want to stop crime. We don't like seeing people killed. But they're targeting the wrong people."

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House Bill 1240 bans so-called "assault weapons" — primarily semiautomatic rifles — with exceptions for law enforcement and the military. The bill passed the Senate Saturday and will return to the House for a second vote because it was amended. The bill will take effect immediately upon Gov. Jay Inslee's signature. 

Washington will become the tenth state to adopt a ban on such weapons.

"Assault weapons are civilian versions of weapons created for the military and are designed to kill humans quickly and efficiently," the bill states.

It bans more than 60 specific firearms, most of them semiautomatic long guns such as AR-15s and AK-47s. Semiautomatic pistols and shotguns with certain features outlined in the bill may also be banned, but the specific guns are not listed.

"The bill takes away the personal protection option that may work the best for some people," Milhans said.

One of her students, a woman in her 70s, recently bought her first rifle for home defense. "I feel for people like her, that her option is also taken away," Milhans said.

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Milhans said most crimes are committed with pistols, not rifles, and that guns used in crime are often gained illegally to begin with.

"Black market, drug deals, theft, straw purchases," Milhans said. "So these bills will not stop that because none of those illegal firearm owners get background checks, go through safety training or do any of that."

About 25% of mass shooters used "assault weapons" to commit their crimes, according to The Violence Project, a database supported by the National Institute of Justice. The project chronicles mass shootings in which four or more victims were murdered with firearms in a public location.

Washington has had eight such shootings since 1966, according to The Violence Project, the majority of which involved handguns.

But semiautomatic rifles have been used in other murders in the state, including the 2016 shooting at a Mukilteo house party, which spurred Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson to advocate for an "assault weapon" ban.

"The devastation of mass shootings extends far beyond the casualties and injuries," Ferguson said in a statement after HB 1240's Senate passage. "Mass shootings traumatize entire communities. We must stop selling these weapons of war in Washington."

People who already own semiautomatic rifles will be able to keep them when the law takes effect. But the bill also bans conversion kits and parts that can be used to assemble an "assault weapon," which Milhans said will make it impossible for competitive shooters to repair their firearms.

"There's just a lot of misinformation," Milhans said of the gun control debate. "People have the assumption that these rifles are military rifles and they just aren't."

Milhans advocated for increased gun safety training, particularly in schools, and procedures to make soft targets safer.

"Because none of these laws will stop any crime," she said.

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