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Washington state ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines ruled unconstitutional, but state appeals

SEATTLE (AP) — A judge in Washington state ruled Monday that the state’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines is unconstitutional — but the law will remain in effect while the state appeals the decision.

Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Gary Bashor ruled that Washington’s ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds violates both the Washington state and U.S. constitutions, The Seattle Times reported. He issued an immediate injunction to stop the state from enforcing the ban, which has been in place since 2022.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed an emergency appeal to the state Supreme Court seeking to keep the law in effect during the appeals process. That was granted Monday evening and the ban will stay in place for now.

In granting the emergency appeal, Washington State Supreme Court commissioner Michael Johnston wrote that he considered “the debatable nature of the factual and legal issues raised in this case, and the public safety issues concerning the proliferation of large capacity magazines.”

Bashor in his ruling referred to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in which gun regulations must be “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

The Supreme Court’s so-called Bruen decision changed the test that lower courts had used for years to evaluate challenges to firearm restrictions. The justices said judges should no longer consider whether the law serves public interests like enhancing public safety.

Bashor wrote that the state needed to show a historical law, from around the time of the Second Amendment’s adoption, that justifies its current regulation. He said the state had failed to do so.

“There was no appetite to limit gun rights by the Founders. Though the specific technology available today may not have been envisioned, the Founders expected technological advancements,” Bashor wrote. “The result is few, if any, historical analogue laws by which a state can justify a modern firearms regulation.”

In arguments and motions, the state said “the enduring tradition of firearms regulation” satisfies the requirements of Bruen and justifies the ban. The state also argued that gun violence and mass shootings are “an unprecedented societal concern,” but Bashor brushed that argument aside.

The 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech was “widely publicized,” Bashor wrote, and yet the U.S. Supreme Court broadened Second Amendment protections the next year.

“The Washington legislature has found that gun violence and mass shootings are on the increase,” Bashor wrote. “The problem, however, is not an unprecedented societal concern.”

Ferguson issued a statement calling the decision incorrect.

“Every court in Washington and across the country to consider challenges to a ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines under the U.S. or Washington Constitution has either rejected that challenge or been overruled. This law is constitutional,” he said.

The decision comes in relation to a lawsuit Ferguson filed against Gator’s Guns, based in the small city of Kelso, for selling high-capacity magazines after the ban went into effect. A person who answered the phone at the gun shop Monday evening said the owner declined to comment at this time.

Earlier this year, a Federal Way gun shop and its owner, agreed to pay $3 million for violating the ban after they were sued by Ferguson.

In his emergency motion, Ferguson wrote that even a temporary pause in the law’s enforcement would likely “unleash a flood” of high-capacity magazines in Washington.

Since July 2022, it has been illegal under Washington state law to manufacture, distribute, sell or offer for sale gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, with limited exceptions. The bill’s backers said at the time the law could reduce the carnage seen in mass shootings because people could have the chance to escape or stop a shooter in the time it takes to reload the weapon.

Article Topic Follows: AP Idaho

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