Big changes are afoot for a staple of firearms.
From July 1, the sale of ammunition magazines with more than 10 cartridges will be prohibited in Washington. Import, manufacture and distribution will also be prohibited.
The only magazines allowed for sale and import will be those with a maximum capacity of 10 rounds under a law pushed by Democrats and signed by Democratic Governor Jay Inslee earlier this year.
Washington residents can continue to buy higher-capacity magazines for handguns and rifles until the law takes effect. Any property after July 1 is not affected by the law.
But gun owners are wary that gun control forces will eventually push through a ban on larger-capacity original magazines, even if it would be unenforceable because of the number of such magazines already in private hands.
There is also a legal challenge aimed at reversing the law.
The foundation, along with several other gun rights organizations, filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month alleging that the new law violates the constitutional protections of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. They have tried to block the law with a court order, but no hearing had been set as of Friday.
“Many of the most popular modern handguns and semi-automatic rifles come standard with magazines that hold more than ten rounds,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the foundation.
“As we note in the lawsuit, there is no reliable evidence that restrictions on the manufacture or sale of new magazines reduce violent crime,” he said. “This law unfairly and arbitrarily penalizes honest citizens for crimes they did not commit, in hopes of preventing crimes they would never dream of committing.”
To help fund the legal fight, Aero Precision, a Tacoma company that markets firearms and components, says it will donate proceeds from the sale of its 30-round magazines to the effort led by the foundation. The firm undertakes to Washington residents that it will “prioritize these orders so that our customers receive their magazine order by July 1st.”
Attorney General Bob Ferguson has said he will “vigorously defend” the new law.
“All seven federal appeals courts to consider laws banning the sale of high-capacity magazines upheld those laws as constitutional,” he said on June 3.
Passage of the ban this year ended a series of setbacks in the Legislature, even as other important measures to reduce gun-related violence became law. as a result of the initiative and legislation.
In the past five years, through initiative and legislation, the state has expanded background checks, created extreme risk protection orders, banned kickbacks, raised the age to buy guns semi-automatic weapons and has banned the open carry of weapons near permitted demonstrations.
Under Senate bill 5078, it will be illegal in Washington to manufacture, sell, distribute or import a firearm magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. It does not prohibit the possession of such large capacity magazines.
It also makes the sale of a prohibited ammunition magazine a violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act. This allows the attorney general’s office to pursue violations by those who might try to sell them online to Washington residents.
Washington will be the 10th state with a magazine capacity limit, according to Ferguson, who pushed for the ban in each of the last six legislative sessions.
Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, the law’s lead sponsor, said the “average Washingtonian sees this as a reasonable step” and says most residents won’t notice a difference on July 1.
“As long as you’re legally eligible to own a gun, you’ll be able to buy one. It’s just a matter of what kind of accessory comes with it,” he said. “We’re not really affecting people who are legitimately exercising their Second Amendment rights.”
The state doesn’t track sales of ammunition magazines, so it’s difficult to verify the recent increase.
The state Department of Licensing counts sales of semi-automatic handguns and assault rifles, which can be equipped with higher-capacity magazines. Data from the state agency show that sales have held steady, both before and after the law was passed.
In 2021, the department recorded 151,494 handgun sales and transfers, down from 217,773 in 2020. This year, 30,676 were registered through early June, state records show. Purchases of semi-automatic rifles registered with the state so far this year total 4,868. 42,904 transfers were recorded in 2020 and 35,729 in 2021.
Gun violence will not end with this law, Liias said. But it can reduce the carnage. A person intent on carrying out a mass shooting could be forced to reload, and those moments can provide an opportunity to take down a shooter or for people to find cover, he said.
“It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s one of several steps we’ve taken to make our communities safer,” he said. “We really want to stop impulsive young people in a mental breakdown.”
That was the situation on a summer night in Mukilteo in 2016, when a 19-year-old used an AR-15 rifle with a 30-round clip to kill Anna Bui, Jake Long and Jordan Ebner, while seriously wounding Will Kramer.
Liias represents Mukilteo and previously served on its city council. He cited this tragedy in the course of drafting and passing this law.
“We want to make it harder for people bent on chaos and death,” he said.