2nd Amendment alert: Washington attorney general pushes bill to limit gun magazine sizes

Legislation would limit the size of most magazines sold to 10 rounds, grandfather in current magazines of higher capacity and limit their use.

Updated: February 11, 2022 - 11:27pm

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office (AGO) is celebrating the passage of a bill by the state Senate that limits magazine sizes of firearms.

“The Legislature put public safety above the interest of the gun lobby,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “This historic vote represents an important step toward combatting mass shootings. The devastation of mass shootings traumatizes entire communities. The research is clear – bans on the sale of high-capacity magazines saves lives. It’s time for the House of Representatives to act, and send this public safety bill to the Governor.”

The AGO said it requested the legislation, and Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, spearheaded it.

The bill, Senate Bill 5078, passed Wednesday, 28-20, with all of the Republican senators present and one Democrat voting against it. If enacted, it would limit the size of most magazines sold to 10 rounds, grandfather in current magazines of higher capacity and limit their use.

Its companion bill in the House, House Bill 1164, had not been scheduled for a second reading.

“This creates the impression that the Legislature is doing something” to address the recent surge of violent and other crimes in this state, Dave Workman, senior editor at the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, told The Center Square.

In reality it will do no such thing, he said.

“I don’t think that there’s any credible evidence that this is going to make any difference in preventing the kinds of crimes that Bob Ferguson and the lawmakers who signed onto this bill” wanted to prevent, he said.

Workman pointed out practical problems with the legislation, including the facts that millions of higher capacity magazines already are in circulation in the U.S. and well trained marksmen can change magazines quickly.

“Someone who wants to swap magazines can do that pretty fast if they know what they’re doing,” Workman said.

For instance, Workman said it takes him about a second and a half to make the swap and many gun owners can do it even faster.

The AGO press release said magazine regulation laws are not controversial in American courts. Workman countered by arguing the legal environment for Second Amendment cases may be getting more favorable at the Supreme Court.

Since the turn of the century, the Supreme Court has sided with an individual right to own firearms and incorporated that right to all 50 states. It now is scrutinizing restrictive permitting laws to limit public carrying of those weapons on one’s person in New York and elsewhere.

In a separate case challenging a Maryland gun law, 25 state attorneys general have added their names to an amicus brief asking the court to hear a case that could set aside all bans of semiautomatic guns that are designated as “assault weapons.”

Ferguson was not one of the attorneys general who signed onto that brief.