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New restrictions for gun magazines one step away from being law in Washington

UPDATED: Sat., March 5, 2022

The Washington Legislature has passed a bill to ban sale of magazines that hold 10 rounds or more, becoming the 10th state to ban large magazines.   (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)
The Washington Legislature has passed a bill to ban sale of magazines that hold 10 rounds or more, becoming the 10th state to ban large magazines.  (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

OLYMPIA – Making, distributing or selling gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds is one step closer to being illegal in Washington.

The state House of Representatives late Friday voted 55-42, on party lines, to pass a bill that would ban selling, manufacturing or distributing magazines for rifles, as well as a number of pistols that can hold more than 10 bullets, in Washington if Gov. Jay Inslee signs it into law. The bill is now headed to his desk.

Possession is not prohibited in the bill that passed Friday, as that provision was scrapped in the Senate. Law enforcement and armed services members are exempt from the rule.

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.

“It’s time that we send a message here in Washington that enough is enough,” Seattle Democrat Rep. Javier Valdez, who sponsored the measure in the House, said on the floor.

An amendment from Democrat Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley, of Seattle, would have changed the definition of “high capacity magazine” to include ammunition feeding devices with capacity to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition for a rifle or shotgun, or more than 15 rounds for a pistol.

Harris-Talley said she’s had many neighbors, especially people of color who “face the most gun violence and are the most criminalized by gun violence,” who were concerned about the bill.

She said it was a “very narrow” amendment that would increase the number of rounds allowed for pistol magazines.

Rep. David Hackney, D-Tukwila, spoke out against the amendment. He said there was no “reasonable, practical reason” for a magazine with ammunition capacity of more than 10 rounds.

“More bullets and more guns do not make my community safer,” he said.

Harris-Talley’s amendment failed, and she voted against the bill.

Friday’s debate lasted more than three hours, with Republicans putting forth 22 amendments to be debated.

This is the second time the bill was brought up in the House after Democrats tried once in 2020 but had to pull the bill from consideration after Republicans filed 120 amendments.

Republicans on Friday argued that prohibiting these types of magazines was an issue of safety, as many people have firearms for protection.

The people who testified against the bill in committee are “genuinely in fear of their safety,” Spokane Republican Rep. Jenny Graham said on the floor.

Spokane Valley Republican Rep. Bob McCaslin called the policy a “slap in the face to law-abiding citizens.”

“This policy clearly violates both our state and federal constitutions and I anticipate action will be taken in the courts to correct this misguided attack on our citizens’ right to protect themselves,” McCaslin said in a statement following the vote.

The bill has been requested by State Attorney General Bob Ferguson since 2017. In response to the Senate passing the bill last month, Ferguson said the research is “clear” that bans on the sale of high-capacity magazines save lives.

“Today is the fulfillment of years of hard work from so many,” Ferguson said in a statement Friday. “This policy will save lives and make our communities safer from gun violence.”

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.

Rep. Liz Berry, D-Seattle, shared a story of being at a campaign event for Giffords in 2011 when a shooter killed six people and injured 13 others, including Giffords.

“Gun violence is preventable,” she said. “This bill will save lives.”

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.

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