After several years of failed attempts, lawmakers in Washington state have started to move a magazine capacity restriction bill.
During a late Wednesday night vote, Democrats in the state Senate voted to pass Senate Bill 5078 on a 28-20 vote. The bill would prohibit the manufacture, distribution, and sale of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. Supporters argued the restriction will prevent crime.
“My community lost three beautiful souls to a mass shooter nearly six years ago,” Sen. Marko Liias (D.), the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “These tragedies are all too common in America, but they can be prevented through reasonable gun safety legislation. The only use for large-capacity magazines is to inflict the maximum amount of injury in the shortest amount of time, which makes them a favored tool for mass shooters.”
If passed by the state House and signed by the Governor, the bill would make Washington the tenth state to enact a law restricting magazine capacity. For years, restrictions on magazine capacity have been a major priority for many Democratic lawmakers and gun-control advocates in the state. Senate Bill 5078 marks the sixth time a magazine bill has been introduced in the state, but only the first time such a bill has ever passed through a chamber of the legislature on a floor vote.
Republican opponents of the bill challenged the idea that it would help reduce crime. Instead, they said the restrictions could harm the ability of law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves.
“This is a serious bill that will jeopardize the safety of Washingtonians,” Senator Phil Fortunato (R.), said during the debate before the vote. “These are the regular magazines we see out there every day.”
Gun rights organziations were also quick to denounce the bill’s passage out of the Senate. Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation, told The Reload the bill was an “assault on gun rights.” He also promised legal action if the bill made it into law.
“If they also get it passed in the House and signed by the Governor the Second Amendment Foundation will file a lawsuit to overturn it,” Gottlieb said.
The bill came at the request of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D.), who has called for restrictions on firearm magazines in the state since 2017. He praised the results of the Senate vote Wednesday night.
“The Legislature put public safety above the interest of the gun lobby,” Ferguson said in a press release. “This historic vote represents an important step toward combating mass shootings. The devastation of mass shootings traumatizes entire communities.”
The bill now awaits action in the state House where Democrats hold a 57-41 majority over Republicans. House Speaker Laurie Jinkins (D.) has not yet committed to holding a vote on the bill before the state’s legislative session ends in March. However, she has previously expressed support for new gun control legislation.
“It’s never a harmful year to do bills on gun safety,” Jinkins told the Seattle Times.
A previous version of the bill restricted magazine capacity above 17 rounds but was cut down to 10 rounds before Wednesday’s floor vote. Eight of the nine states that currently have capacity restrictions limit magazines to 10 rounds.
The bill does not ban the possession of currently-owned magazines in its current version, only the sale or transfer of magazines after the law goes into effect. Violators of the law would be subject to a gross misdemeanor, which could carry up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The bill exempts members of law enforcement from the prohibition.
UPDATE 2-10-2022 2:30 PM EST: This story has been updated to include comments from the Second Amendment Foundation.