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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bill that would ban large-capacity magazines gets mixed reviews in first state Senate committee hearing

A custom-made semi-automatic hunting rifle with a high-capacity detachable magazine is seen here. Such magazines enable a shooter to fire dozens of bullets before being forced to reload. The Washington Legislature is considering a bill to ban such high-capacity magazines.  (Rich Pedroncelli)

OLYMPIA – A bill that would ban the manufacture, possession, distribution and sale of large-capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition received its first hearing in a Senate committee on Monday.

The bill, which would make it a gross misdemeanor to possess large-capacity magazines except in certain cases, received mixed reactions by those who testified.

“This balanced approach that focuses on gun responsibility but keeps these accessories out of the hands of mass shooters is the right approach for our state,” co-sponsor Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, told members of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

A large -capacity magazine is a feeding device with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition or any conversion kit from which a device can be assembled, according to the bill.

Certain groups are exempt from the ban, including:

  • Any person who legally possessed the magazine before the effective date of the law.
  • Any person who inherits the magazine on the death of a former owner who legally possessed it.
  • Any government officer, agent or employee or contractor hired to provide firearms training to law enforcement.
  • A licensed firearms manufacturer and dealer who sells to any branch of the armed forces or military.
  • A dealer properly licensed to sell or transfer it to someone in another state.
  • Law enforcement officers who use large-capacity magazines for official duties.

Those in support of the ban said mass shooters favor high-capacity magazines because they “inflict maximum damage by allowing shots to be fired without needing to pause and reload,” Liias said.

Cherie Rowe Proctor, of Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, said when magazine capacity is limited, it forces shooters to pause for a few seconds and reload, which can offer “precious, precious moments for victims to escape.”

Ami Strahan, whose son Sam died in the Freeman High School shooting in 2017, told committee members that the shooter had plans to inflict as many casualties as possible and brought more than 400 rounds of ammunition with him. “The community is no place for that type of weapon,” she said.

Opponents of the bill raised concerns about removing a self -defense mechanism by banning large capacity magazines.

Nicole McGinnis, who shared a story of a man attempting to break into her home while she was alone with her children, said passing this law would make her and other women potential victims without a way to defend themselves.

“Criminals will never follow this law,” she said.

Robin Ball, owner of Sharp Shooting Range in Spokane, called the bill “baseless legislation” that would have negative effects on her business, as Washington residents could drive 15 miles to Idaho where such restrictions don’t exist.

Large magazine capacity has always mattered for competition shooters and those looking for self -defense, she said.

“Customers will cross state borders to purchase what you’re trying to restrict,” she said.

The bill is the first of two related to gun reform that will be heard in committee this week. A bill that would ban open carry at demonstrations and on the Capitol Campus will be heard on Tuesday.

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.