In this 2018 photo, Ben Garrison of Puyallup wears his Kel-Tec RDB gun, and several magazines of ammunition, during a gun rights rally at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

In this 2018 photo, Ben Garrison of Puyallup wears his Kel-Tec RDB gun, and several magazines of ammunition, during a gun rights rally at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

With gun reform law in limbo, Edmonds rep is ‘confident’ it will prevail

Despite a two-hour legal period last week, the high-capacity ammunition magazine ban remains in place.

OLYMPIA — For just under two hours earlier this month, the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines was legal in Washington, when a Cowlitz County judge ruled a 2022 ban passed by lawmakers unconstitutional.

Now, the decision is on pause as the state seeks further consideration from the Supreme Court.

Edmonds Rep. Strom Peterson, who helped push the law through the Legislature two years ago, still believes the law he passed is constitutional.

The law, a major piece of state Democrats’ push for gun control measures, bans the sale and manufacture of gun magazines containing more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Last year, the Legislature also passed a bill sponsored by Peterson banning assault weapons in the state after a seven-year effort, initially prompted by a 2016 shooting at a house party in Mukilteo. The shooter, a former Kamiak High School student, used an assault weapon to kill three students and injure one.

“Studies have shown that bans of high capacity magazines reduce both the incidence and number of people killed in a mass shooting,” state Sen. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, wrote in a statement. “That is my concern and motivation for passing this policy.”

Liias was the prime sponsor of the high-capacity magazine ban in 2022. He declined to comment on the active court case.

On the same day that Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Gary Bashor filed an immediate injunction to lift the magazine ban April 8, the state Supreme Court approved a temporary stay on the law. With the stay, filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the ban will stay in place pending a decision from the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday afternoon, Supreme Court Commissioner Michael Johnston held a hearing on the attorney general’s emergency stay. Johnston said he will announce his decision to either deny or continue the temporary stay on the law next week.

Bashor ruled the high-capacity ammunition magazine law violated the Washington State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

In his decision, Bashor noted very few modern gun restrictions can be justified by “historical analogue laws” — meaning that since there are no relevant and similar laws to the ban on high-capacity magazines from 1791, when the Second Amendment was adopted and high-capacity magazines didn’t exist, the ban has no precedent to back it up, he ruled.

Peterson, a Democrat, called the argument “simplistic” and “faulty at its core.” He said it doesn’t seem likely the writers of the Constitution didn’t foresee new gun technology.

In the two hours after Bashor made his ruling this month, the Kelso gun store seeking to overturn the state’s ban sold more than 200 high-capacity magazines, the shop posted on its Facebook page. The litigation originated in September when Ferguson sued the store, Gator’s Custom Guns, and its owner Wally Wentz for illegally selling the high-capacity magazines.

Wentz asserted the ban violated Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.

Peterson said the quick response from the gun seller suggested that opponents of the ban knew the Cowlitz County judge would be on their side.

But the Supreme Court’s swift action, on the other hand, showed the ban has merit, Peterson argued.

“I am confident that we passed a sound, constitutional law,” he added.

The ban on high-capacity magazines and Peterson’s assault weapons ban have been in and out of the legal system since becoming law.

After the the Legislature passed the assault weapons ban last year, arms dealers and gun lobbyists filed suits against the state to shoot down the law, but the law has prevailed.

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623; jenelle.baumbach@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

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