Washington State House Democrats announcement.
Rep. Dan Bronoske (D-Lakewood) introduced HB 1719, legislation to clarify that police are allowed and encouraged to use less-than-lethal munitions. Last year, the Legislature passed a package of legislation designed to establish clear expectations for officer behavior; to set a baseline for the acceptable use of force, tactics, and equipment; and to put systems of accountability and transparency into place. One of these bills, HB 1054 set a baseline for acceptable police tactics and equipment. Among those provisions, the Legislature banned firearms over .50 caliber. Rifles sized over .50 caliber were developed as weapons to be used during war and have no appropriate role in our community.
While the intent of the package of legislation was to encourage de-escalation and the use of less-lethal force, some law enforcement agencies contend that the prohibition on firearms greater than .50 caliber prevents them from using less-lethal launchers or beanbag shotguns. Many law enforcement agencies recognized the intent of the Legislature and have continued to use less-than-lethal weapons; however, many agencies have discontinued their use.
“The Legislature never intended to ban less-than-lethal alternatives to deadly force,” said Bronoske. “This bill will eliminate any ambiguity in the statute and ensure that our law enforcement professionals have all of the tools necessary to do their job.”
“Since the implementation of our police accountability package, Rep. Jesse Johnson (D-Federal Way), Vice-Chair of the House Public Safety Committee and myself, have met with police leaders and unions across our state to learn how these laws are being implemented and how we can clarify them to ensure officers have the certainty they need to do their job,” said Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), Chair of the House Public Safety Committee.
HB 1719 clarifies that the prohibition of .50 caliber firearms does not apply to less-than-lethal launchers or shotguns. This will ensure that officers have the ability to use the full range of less-than-lethal alternatives to deadly force.
HB 1719 will be heard in the House Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, January 11th, at 8:00 a.m.