Kelso gun retailer unlawfully offered more than 11,400 high-capacity magazines for public sale since the ban went into effect
KELSO — Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit today against Gator’s Custom Guns and its owner, Walter Wentz, for unlawfully selling high-capacity magazines. It is the second lawsuit filed to enforce the ban on sales of magazines with capacity to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
The Kelso-based retailer continued selling high-capacity magazines — potentially thousands — after the law went into effect in July 2022. The lawsuit asserts the retailer intentionally violated the Consumer Protection Act when it unlawfully offered 11,408 high-capacity magazines for sale to the public. Gator’s sold a total of five high-capacity magazines to investigators on two separate occasions. In fact, one of those sales was made by Wentz himself: two magazines with capacity four times greater than the maximum allowed under the law.
Ferguson’s lawsuit is the result of a continued statewide sweep intended to identify gun retailers who continue to violate the law. Investigators with the Attorney General’s Office have visited more than 100 stores.
The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that Gator’s Custom Guns is among the state’s largest and most persistent purchasers of high-capacity magazines from out-of-state distributors. Upon visiting the retailer, investigators observed numerous shop displays — barrels and boxes filled with magazines that covered a substantial portion of the store’s retail space. It is the largest display investigators have seen to date as part of the office’s sweep. The Attorney General’s Office tried obtaining records from Gator’s to determine how much of that inventory it distributed, but the store was uncooperative.
“Our sweep continues to show that an overwhelming majority of gun retailers in Washington are doing the right thing and complying with the law,” Ferguson said. “In contrast, Gator’s Custom Guns intentionally built a retail stockpile that exceeds anything my office has seen since the ban went into effect. My office will continue to enforce this common-sense law.”
Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in Cowlitz County Superior Court, seeks to force Gator’s Custom Guns to stop unlawfully stocking, advertising and selling high-capacity magazines and to destroy or return to its distributors all of its remaining inventory. The suit also seeks civil penalties for every violation of the Consumer Protection Act. The maximum penalty is $7,500 every time the retailer sold or offered to sell a high-capacity magazine.
Details of the illegal sales
The illegal sales to Attorney General’s Office investigators happened approximately 10 months after the ban on high-capacity magazines went into effect, following a well-publicized court ruling against another Federal Way gun retailer for similar violations of the law.
In May, an investigator with the office’s Consumer Protection Division visited the store twice. During the first visit, a sales representative illegally sold three high-capacity magazines: one Glock 33-round magazine, one Magpul 27-round magazine and one Magpul AR 40-round magazine. During the second visit, the store’s owner sold two Magpul 40-round magazines to the investigator.
During each visit, the investigator observed barrels and boxes filled with hundreds more high-capacity magazines taking up a significant portion of the retail space. Those included magazines with rounds up to five times greater than the maximum allowed under the law.
Background on high-capacity magazines ban
The law banning high-capacity magazines went into effect on July 1, 2022.
Ferguson partnered with Sen. Marko Liias to propose Senate Bill 5078 which made it illegal to manufacture, distribute, sell or offer for sale magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Violations of the high-capacity magazine ban also constitute violations of the Consumer Protection Act.
Ferguson pursued this reform starting in September 2016, when he stood beside family members impacted by a mass shooting in Mukilteo where a 19-year-old with an assault weapon and a high-capacity magazine killed three people and injured a fourth. Ferguson vowed to propose legislation to ban these deadly weapons until the reforms passed.
Federal Way Discount Guns
This is Ferguson’s second lawsuit since Washington banned high-capacity magazines.
Ferguson prevailed in court multiple times in the first lawsuit, which was filed against Federal Way Discount Guns and its owner, Mohammed Reza Baghai, for illegally selling high-capacity magazines despite the ban. It also resulted from the statewide sweep by Attorney General’s Office investigators.
A month after that suit was filed in December 2022, a King County judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the store from selling high-capacity magazines. The defendants were held in contempt of court for intentionally violating the court order.
Then, in April, a King County Superior Court judge granted a partial summary judgment, agreeing with Ferguson that Baghai and his business each violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act The judge ordered the defendants to pay the state’s attorneys’ fees. The court has yet to determine the amount of civil penalties they will pay as a result of their unlawful actions.
The Attorney General’s statewide sweep of gun retailers also led to $15,000 in penalties for Lakewood-based gun retailer WGS Guns, after the store intentionally violated the law.
Attorney General’s Office investigators found the store unlawfully sold two high-capacity magazines approximately two months after the ban went into effect, then complied with the law later in the investigation.
Ferguson filed an assurance of discontinuance, a resolution that also required WGS Guns to remove the high-capacity magazines from its website and stop fulfilling online orders for them.
Federal courts have repeatedly upheld laws limiting magazine capacity. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed appeals court decisions upholding these laws to stand.
Anyone who suspects a store is selling high-capacity magazines can alert our office by filing a complaint at www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
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.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.email@example.com
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