Washington state can continue to enforce its ban on the sale of commonly owned ammunition magazines, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Mary Dimke, a Joe Biden appointee, denied a motion for preliminary injunction filed by gun-rights advocates against the state’s magazine ban. She ruled that the plaintiffs failed to make a persuasive case that “large capacity” magazines are “arms.”
“At present, the evidence in the record is insufficient to establish that Plaintiffs are likely to prove that large capacity magazines fall within the Second Amendment right,” Judge Dimke wrote in Brumback v. Ferguson. “The instant decision is primarily the result of Plaintiffs’ insufficient evidentiary showing, and should not be read to preclude a contrary finding at a trial on the merits.”
The ruling deals another blow to gun owners in the Evergreen State, who have faced a string of losses in legal challenges to the state’s gun laws in recent months even as similar laws have been struck down by courts elsewhere. A separate challenge against the state’s ban on certain semi-automatic weapons was similarly rejected in June.
At the same time, the ruling left a sliver of hope for gun-rights advocates on what a decision on the merits of the ban might yield. Judge Dimke called for a thorough review of the historical record of gun regulations and “expert reports” concerning what prior governments viewed as “arms” under the Second Amendment so she could determine whether the banned magazines would count. She noted that, at this point, neither side of the lawsuit had convinced her one way or another on the question.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D.), the ban’s chief proponent during its time in the legislature, celebrated Judge Dimke’s ruling.
“Washington state is undefeated in court against challenges to Washington’s common-sense firearm safety laws,” Ferguson said in a press release. “My office wrote this law. It is constitutional. It will save lives. I look forward to continuing to successfully defend it.”
The Silent Majority Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit advocacy group, brought the suit against the magazine ban. The group disputed Dimke’s finding that it did not provide sufficient historical evidence in a Facebook post responding to the decision, citing multiple expert declarations included in the case. The group said it was weighing its options on whether to proceed to trial or appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
“We’re working through these options, but we anticipate we’ll have a decision on which option makes the most sense within the next two weeks,” the group wrote.
The Dimke ruling upholding Washington’s ban comes just days after a federal judge struck down California’s magazine ban as unconstitutional.
“Government remains fixed on the notion that it alone can decide that anything larger than a 10-round magazine is not ‘suitable’ for a citizen to have. But, there are no analogous cases in our history,” Judge Roger Benitez wrote in Duncan v. Bonta. “There are no cases where American government dictated that lever-action rifles were unsuitable because single shot rifles were good enough, or revolvers were unsuitable because derringers were good enough. These choices have always belonged to the People to decide for themselves how much firepower they need.”
That case could ultimately impact the fate of Washington’s ban because both states fall within the same appeals court circuit and are bound by the same appellate rulings. California has already appealed Judge Benitez’s decision to the Ninth Circuit.
In the meantime, gun owners in Washington will have to abide by the state’s sales ban until a ruling is reached on the merits of this case or a separate challenge. Dimke ordered both sides of the lawsuit to file a report scheduling the next steps of the case by October 13.