Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Washington with join nine other states that restrict high-capacity magazines

OLYMPIA — Today, the Washington state Legislature passed Attorney General Request legislation sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, banning the sale of high-capacity magazines in Washington. The bill passed the Legislature after a historic 55-42 vote in the House of Representatives. It heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Senate Bill 5078 prohibits the sale, attempted sale, manufacture and distribution of high-capacity magazines. Like Maryland, it does not prohibit the possession of high-capacity magazines, instead focusing prospectively on the supply side.

“Today is the fulfillment of years of hard work from so many,” Ferguson said. “More than five years ago, I stood with the parents of shooting victims, legislators, mayors, police chiefs and representatives from faith communities to say enough is enough, and proposed banning the sale of high-capacity magazines in Washington state. Today, our Legislature chose public safety over the gun lobby, and I am deeply appreciative of their service. This policy will save lives and make our communities safer from gun violence.”

“For too long we have accepted gun violence as an inevitable part of life,” said Liias. “My own community was impacted by gun violence in 2016, when three young lives were lost due to a mass shooting. Today, the Legislature took long overdue action to protect families across Washington from that harm by restricting the sale of high-capacity magazines. This is a commonsense policy that will save lives, and I am grateful for all of the years of advocacy that led to its passage.”

Washington will join nine states that already restrict high-capacity magazines. With Washington’s legislation in place, more than 100 million people will live in states that block the sale of magazines with more than 10 rounds.

Ferguson has been pursuing this legislative reform since September 2016. On July 30, 2016, a 19-year-old used an assault weapon and a high-capacity magazine to kill three students and seriously wound a fourth. In September 2016, Ferguson stood beside parents of shooting victims, legislators, mayors, police chiefs, and representatives of the faith community and vowed to continue proposing legislation to ban the sale of high capacity magazines every year until it passed.

The Washington State Medical Association, the Parent Teacher Association, the Washington Education Association, the Governor’s Office and many others have joined gun violence prevention groups, including the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, Washington Ceasefire and more to support the bill.

The House version of the bill, HB 1164, is sponsored by Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle.

Restricting Magazine Capacity Saves Lives

The evidence that this policy saves lives is overwhelming. The following are recent studies based on real world data coming from states that have banned the sale of magazines with the capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Since 1980, according to the Violence Policy Center, high-capacity magazines have been involved in at least 85 mass shootings, including multiple mass shootings in Washington state, resulting in 791 fatalities and more than 1,100 injuries. Firearms equipped with high-capacity magazines have been the weapons of choice in nearly every mass shooting that has shocked the national conscience, including in Dayton (2019), El Paso (2019), Pittsburgh (2018), Parkland (2018), Las Vegas (2017), Sutherland Springs (2017), Orlando (2016), Newtown (2012), Aurora (2012) and more.

All seven federal courts of appeals to look at this issue have concluded that bans on the sale of high-capacity magazines are constitutional because state and local jurisdictions demonstrated an important government interest in enacting these policies. The foundation is the ample data and research that shows that this policy makes the public safer. 

High-Capacity Magazines and Mass Shootings

In 32 seconds, an individual armed with a 100-round double-drum magazine and an AR-15-type weapon killed or injured 36 people in a Dayton, Ohio, nightclub on Aug. 3, 2019. The Dayton mass shooting occurred just one day after a mass shooting at an El Paso Wal-Mart, where a white nationalist armed with an AK-47-type rifle and multiple high-capacity magazines killed or injured 46 people, including children.

High-capacity magazines were used in two mass shootings in Washington in the last six years, in Mukilteo and Burlington.

A would-be mass shooting at Seattle Pacific University was prevented when a student tackled the gunman when he was reloading his shotgun. During Sandy Hook, 11 children were able to escape while the shooter was forced to reload. In Parkland, Fla., the mass shooting ended only when the shooter’s assault weapon jammed when he attempted to reload. In the 2011 Tucson shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., the mass shooting was interrupted when the shooter, who was using a 33-round magazine, stopped to reload and fumbled the fresh ammunition.

An analysis of mass shootings from 2009 to 2017 revealed that 58 percent involved high-capacity magazines, resulting in twice as many fatalities and 1,400 percent more injuries per incident compared to those that did not involve high-capacity magazines. Whether a state allows high-capacity magazine sales is the single best predictor of the mass shooting rates in that state, according to an analysis from Michael Siegel, a community health science professor at Boston University, using data from Stanford’s Mass Shootings in America.

Federal Courts

Multiple federal courts of appeals have upheld laws limiting magazine capacity, including most recently the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court upheld California’s ban on Nov. 30, 2021.

In its November decision, the 9th Circuit panel refuted several arguments against banning the sale of high-capacity magazines. Some quotes from the court’s opinion:

  • “Experts in this case and other cases report that ‘most homeowners only use two to three rounds of ammunition in self-defense.’ ”
  • “Plaintiffs have not pointed to a single instance — in California or elsewhere, recently or ever — in which someone was unable to defend himself or herself due to a lack of a large-capacity magazine, whereas the record describes the many deaths and injuries caused by criminals’ use of large-capacity magazines during mass shootings.”
  • “Approximately three-quarters of mass shooters possessed their weapons, as well as their large-capacity magazines, lawfully.”
  • “In the past half-century, large-capacity magazines have been used in about three-quarters of gun massacres with 10 or more deaths and in 100 percent of gun massacres with 20 or more deaths, and more than twice as many people have been killed or injured in mass shootings that involved a large-capacity magazine.”

In all, seven federal courts of appeals have upheld laws prohibiting the sale of high-capacity magazines. There is currently no split or controversy in the federal courts of appeal on this issue. The United States Supreme Court has allowed appeals court decisions upholding these laws to stand.


Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Media Contact:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov

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