OLYMPIA — The Washington House late Friday voted to prohibit the sale, distribution and manufacture of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, marking a major victory for supporters of stricter gun laws as the bill now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.
Senate Bill 5078 not only puts limits on semiautomatic rifles with 20 or 30 rounds, but also for many pistols, which often carry more than 10 rounds.
The legislation does not prohibit the actual possession of such magazines.
The bill’s passage — lawmakers approved it 55-42 in the Democratic-held House — marks perhaps the biggest win at the Legislature in recent years for advocates of gun regulations. Inslee supports the supports the measure, and has described it as “designed to save lives.”
Voters last decade passed a trio of statewide initiatives imposing sweeping firearms restrictions, but ambitious firearms regulations such as limits on magazines have stalled for years in Olympia.
In a floor speech, Rep. Liz Berry, D-Seattle, recounted the mass shooting in 2011 in during an event held by then-U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona, for whom Berry worked for at the time. Six people died in that attack, and 13 others, including Giffords, who was shot in the head, were injured.
“Gun violence is preventable, this bill will save lives,” Berry, recounting how one of her friends died in the shooting. “I am voting yes tonight for Gabby, I am voting yes tonight for Dave, and I am voting yes tonight for all the people whose lives are impacted by gun violence in our communities.”
The House vote Friday fell along party lines, with nearly all Democrats voting to support Senate Bill 5078. Republicans voted against it, and in a show of protest, forced the Democrats to spend hours debating amendments to the legislation.
“It is clear that the bill before us now impairs the right of the individual citizen to bear arms,” Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor, said during the debate. Young was one of the GOP lawmakers who blocked the limits on magazines two years ago by sponsoring scores of amendments, forcing Democrats to shelve that proposal.
Sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, SB 5078 was requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson. It passed the Senate last month. In a statement issued after the vote, Ferguson said Washington would join nine states that “already restrict high-capacity magazines.”
The legislation includes exceptions to magazine limits for law enforcement and corrections officers, members of the armed forces, Washington’s National Guard, and for licensed firearms dealers that sell to such institutions.
Violations would be a gross misdemeanor, which in Washington can bring up to 364 days in county jail or a maximum fine of $5,000, according to a legislative analysis.
At the same time, the legislation makes the sale or offering for distribution or sale of a prohibited magazine a violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.
That’s a law used by the Attorney General’s Office, which can — on behalf of state residents — take action on alleged violations of the act to get restitution and civil penalties.
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