Washington Senate passes bill limiting manufacture, sale of ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds

Feb. 10—OLYMPIA — The state Senate passed a bill that would prohibit the manufacture, distribution or sale of gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.

The original bill would have prohibited the possession of magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. An amendment that passed Wednesday removed the provision banning possession. The bill would exempt law enforcement and armed services from having to follow the rule.

If passed by the House, it would ban magazines for rifles as well as a number of pistols that can hold more than 10 bullets.

"This measure will make Washington a safer place," bill sponsor Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, said on the floor. "This measure will save lives."

Liias said he sponsored the bill in response to a 2016 shooting in Mukilteo that killed three people and injured another..

The bill passed 28-20 along party lines, the first time a measure like it has received a floor vote in the Legislature. It's unclear if it will be able to pass the state House of Representatives by the end of the 60-day session March 10. House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, told reporters Wednesday it was "way too early" to say how her caucus would feel about the bill.

The bill is a request from State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who first proposed it in 2017.

"This historic vote represents an important step toward combating mass shootings," Ferguson said in a statement. "The devastation of mass shootings traumatizes entire communities. The research is clear — bans on the sale of high-capacity magazines saves lives."

Nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted regulations on large capacity magazines, according to Giffords Law Center, a gun control organization started by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont. California's ban was recently upheld in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals but could be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democrats and gun control advocates have pushed for restrictions on high-capacity magazines as a way to help prevent mass shootings. Republicans and gun rights activists, however, have argued these restrictions infringe on their Second Amendment rights.

A day after the bill passed, about 50 gun rights advocates took to the Capitol steps Thursday for their annual lobby day. It was the first guns rights rally at the Capitol since the Legislature passed a law prohibiting open carry of firearms on campus.

Speakers expressed concerns that lawmakers were "not listening to the people" on gun bills. Ben Charles Jr., of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, criticized the Legislature's move to ban open carry on the Capitol campus, at "the people's building."

The debate Wednesday lasted an hour and a half and ended with an 11 p.m. vote.

During the debate, Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, said the bill is not good for public safety in Washington as it removes the ability of people to defend themselves.

"This is a serious bill that will jeopardize the safety of Washingtonians," Fortunato said.

Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, said there are already magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition in circulation among gun owners. If someone wants to get a hold of them, they will, he said.

"This bill isn't going to do anything," Wagoner said.

Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, said the bill is a way of "taking a commonsense approach" to a public safety issue.

"This is a matter of life and death," Kuderer said.

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said he can't say with certainty whether this bill will prevent future mass shooting events.

"We live in a world of uncertainty," Frockt said. "The question for me is whether or not we should try to take some steps to change the trajectory of what's happening."

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.