by Brett Davis
The Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation on Friday filed a federal lawsuit against Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and several other officials, challenging the state’s ban on large-capacity magazines for handguns and rifles.
Senate Bill 5078 prohibits the sale of gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds, along with the manufacturing, distribution or import of such magazines in Washington.
Passed by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this year, SB 5078 is set to go into effect on July 1.
Also named in the lawsuit are Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste, King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall, Kitsap County Sheriff John Gese, Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, Kitsap County Prosecutor Chad M. Enright, and Grays Harbor County Prosecutor Katie Svoboda.
The California-based Firearms Policy Coalition, Rainier Arms LLC out of Auburn, and citizen Gabriella Sullivan joined SAF in the lawsuit.
“We’re asking the court to declare Washington’s ban on original capacity magazines to be unconstitutional under the Second and Fourteenth amendments,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “We want an injunction against the state because this ban criminalizes something that is common in a majority of states, and also leaves law-abiding Washington citizens more vulnerable to attack by ruthless criminals.”
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms, while the Fourteenth Amendment, in part, reads “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process.”
The complaint alleges SB 5078 will negatively impact Washingtonians’ self-defense options.
“The State of Washington has criminalized one of the most common and important means by which its citizens can exercise their fundamental right of self-defense,” the lawsuit reads. “By banning manufacturing, importation, distribution, and sale of standard-capacity firearm magazines that can carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition (‘standard capacity magazines’), the State has barred law-abiding residents from legally acquiring common ammunition magazines and deprived them of an effective means of self-defense.”
Earlier this year, Dave Workman, senior editor of TheGunMag.com, SAF’s print and online publication, predicted to The Center Square that SB 5078 would have “no effect at all on violent crime” should it go into effect.
“Absent relief from this Court,” the lawsuit states, “Defendants will violate the constitutionally protected rights of Washington’s law-abiding citizens and reinforce the erroneous notion that the right to keep and bear arms is nothing more than ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.’”
The lawsuit also, within the context of the Second Amendment, makes an economic argument for why the high-capacity magazine ban should be struck down.
“An outright ban on manufacturing, importing, selling, or offering for sale constitutionally protected magazines violates the Second Amendment by prohibiting retailers from engaging in commerce necessary for individuals to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit takes place against the backdrop of two recent highly-publicized mass shootings, and a high-capacity magazine ban case out of California that may end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
On May 24, an 18-year-old man fatally shot 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Ten days prior, a gunman killed 10 people at a Topps Friendly Markets store in Buffalo, New York.
In both cases, the attacks were carried out using powerful semi-automatic rifles with magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
At the end of February, the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action partnered with the California Rifle & Pistol Association to petition the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to California’s ban on magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
A federal appeals court last year upheld California’s ban on large-capacity magazines. On Nov. 30, in an en banc decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 7-4 that a state law that limits the size of magazines does not interfere with the right to self-defense.
California’s large-capacity magazine ban was approved by voters in 2016. A district judge and a divided three-judge 9th Circuit panel struck down the law prior to it being revived by the whole 9th Circuit.
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Brett Davis reports on Washington state government for The Center Square. He previously worked for public policy organizations the Freedom Foundation and Washington Farm Bureau, as well as various community newspapers.
Photo “Bob Ferguson” by Washington State Office of the Attorney General. Photo “Jay Inslee” by Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Background Photo “Gun Wall” by Michael Saechang. CC BY-SA 2.0.