KENT, Wash. — The Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) unveiled a new poll Friday indicating a majority of Washingtonians support a ban on military-style assault weapons as a means to curb gun violence in the state.
NPI's poll, conducted a week after the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas killed 21 people, revealed 56% of 1,039 likely mid-term voters in Washington state support a ban on assault weapons. An assault rifle ban was opposed by 38% of respondents in the poll.
Andrew Villeneuve, the founder of the Redmond-based advocacy group, said the poll's results indicated support from the entire state, irrespective of geographic regions.
The poll said 73% of King County voters support an assault weapons ban along with 50% of eastern and central Washington voters in favor of new legislation. That mark is higher than the 43% of eastern and central Washington respondents that oppose any measure to limit the purchase of assault weapons.
Across party lines, almost 90% of Democrats support a ban on military-style assault weapons, compared to 21% of Republicans in NPI's poll.
Villeneuve believed the poll's statewide support indicates a "rock-solid foundation" to introduce an assault weapons ban in Washington's next legislative session, which begins annually on the second Monday of January.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson said this is the seventh consecutive year he's pushed politicians to ban assault weapon sales in the state.
In 2021, Washington's Legislature banned the purchase of high-capacity magazines, which the shooter in Uvalde, Texas used to gun down 19 children and two teachers in a classroom.
Ferguson pointed to the seven states in the country that already have an assault weapons ban in place: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
A federal judge upheld each of the states' bans as constitutional, Ferguson said.
"I support the second amendment," Ferguson said. "You can support the second amendment and still support common-sense gun reform that is constitutional and lawful. Other states have done it and those bans have been upheld. Now it's time for the Washington Legislature to take that next step."
The state House and state Senate have not held a floor vote to ban assault-style weapons in over a decade, according to the NPI.
"I understand the fact that we will get exactly 0% from Republican legislators," Ferguson said. "They are AWOL on the issue of common-sense gun reform in this state. And they gotta go to sleep at night with that."
State Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-45th District, said she worried about her school-aged daughter every day because of the rise in mass shootings.
"So many times, after all these years, when I'd drop [my daughter] off at school I would take a look at her clothing to memorize it to make sure I knew what she was wearing -- so that I may be able to identify her," Dhingra said. "No parent should have to have that thought."
Several laws are in place to try to prevent gun violence in Washington. The state requires universal background checks during gun sales, a ban on high-capacity magazines and people younger than 21 are not allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons.
Washington voters passed an initiative in 2016 on "extreme risk protection orders," known as ERPOs, which allow family members and law enforcement to request a court order that prevents someone from accessing guns if they are worried the person might be at risk of harming themselves or others. There must be demonstrated evidence the person poses a significant danger.
Dhingra said the elimination of "weapons of war" needs to be Washington state's next step in curbing gun violence.
She said she is optimistic her colleagues can get legislation passed in the state Senate, but it needs joint approval in the state House to become a reality.
A Republican state representative was not in attendance for Friday's press conference, which detailed the NPI poll's findings. Several Democratic lawmakers claimed there was no Republican support for banning military-style weapons.
"Gun violence is preventable," Dhingra said. "We know how to do it and we now simply must."
On Oct. 1, 2017, Cantrell said she was in a Las Vegas crowd when a lone gunman used an arsenal of automatic weapons to spray over 1,000 bullets in a concert crowd.
In 10 minutes the gunman injured over 500 people and killed 60 victims.
"The chaos that night was more than anything you could ever imagine," Cantrell said. "We were sitting ducks. We ran every time the bullets stopped raining down on us and when they started back up again we dove. And, for some reason I will never understand, I made it out that horrific night when so many others standing just next to me died."
As Cantrell described the moments during the shooting, she said the gun violence has not stopped following the rampage. An average of 123 people per day are killed across the United States due to gun violence, she said.
"We live in a country where gun violence does not discriminate and no one is safe from it," Cantrell said. "Shootings happen at schools, grocery stores, malls, movie theaters, coffee shops, concert venues, the streets we walk in."