OLYMPIA — It will soon be illegal in Washington to make, sell or distribute a firearm magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
The state House on Friday passed Senate Bill 5078 to restrict large-capacity magazines on a 55-42 vote following an emotion-filled four-hour debate. No Republicans supported the bill, while two Democrats joined 40 Republicans in opposing it.
The measure, which cleared the Democrat-led Senate last month, now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for his expected signature. It would take effect July 1.
Advocates of stricter gun regulations celebrated Friday’s passage. For years they’ve pressed for limits, citing use of large-capacity magazines by those who’ve carried out mass shootings in Washington and around the nation.
One occurred in 2016 in Mukilteo, where an armed young man killed three people and wounded a fourth before running out of bullets.
“While no act of legislative grace will ever bring back to life Anna (Bui), Jake (Long), and Jordan (Ebner) or fully restore the well-being of those directly impacted by a gunman’s cunning madness on that summer night, the bill’s passage gives us hope for a safer community,” Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Cornell said.
Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, the bill’s sponsor and a former Mukilteo City Council member, said enactment of the ban “is long overdue. Enough families have experienced the tragedy of gun violence in our state.”
The legislation limits the capacity of magazines for semiautomatic pistols and rifles, and prohibits “the fabrication or construction” of a large capacity magazine. It does does not bar possession of them.
Exceptions to magazine limits are provided for law enforcement and corrections officers, members of the armed forces, Washington’s National Guard and licensed firearms dealers who sell to those institutions.
Violations would be a gross misdemeanor, which in Washington is punishable by up to 364 days in county jail, a maximum fine of up to $5,000, or both.
The legislation also makes the sale or offer for distribution or sale of a prohibited magazine a violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act. That law allows the attorney general’s office to take action on alleged violations of the act to get restitution and civil penalties.
Washington will be the 10th state with some form of limit on magazine capacity, according to Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who pushed for the ban in each of the past six legislative sessions.
Though it’s been an aim of many legislative Democrats, it’s never reached the floor of either chamber until this year.
The House nearly acted on a ban in 2020. Democratic leaders queued it up for a vote but backed off when Republican lawmakers signaled their intent to filibuster it — and derail other legislation in the process — when they proposed 120 amendments.
This time, there were 23 amendments, all but one from Republicans. Fifteen were defeated and eight others withdrawn.
In Friday’s debate, Republicans repeatedly said the measure is unconstitutional because it violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They also shared personal accounts of how a firearm provided them or family members the ability to fend off would-be criminals.
“It is pretty straightforward that on our side of the aisle we feel this is infringing on our rights,” said Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor.
If a person’s ability to defend themselves is limited by the capacity of a magazine, they will be at greater risk to harm from an armed person with evil intent, several said.
“This bill is not going to keep us safer. This bill is not going to end gun violence,” said Rep. Greg Gilday, R-Camano Island.
Democrats countered that having more bullets does not increase one’s safety. Rather, it puts more lives at potential risk.
In Mukilteo, the shooter’s gun had a 30-round magazine and 27 shots were fired before the weapon jammed, Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds said
“Perhaps if he had had a magazine that held 10 bullets, maybe some of those lives would have been spared,” he said.
Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, also talked of that shooting.
It “happened to my daughter’s classmates. It happened in my neighborhood,” she said. “The inconvenience of reloading should not be worth more than our lives.”
This report contains material from The Associated Press.
Correction: An earlier version misstated state Rep. Greg Gilday’s name.