OLYMPIA — Today, the Washington state Senate passed Attorney General Request legislation sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, banning the sale of high-capacity magazines in Washington by a 28-20 vote. The bill prohibits the sale of magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. This is the sixth session the Attorney General has proposed this legislation. Today’s vote marks the first time a limit on magazine capacity has passed a chamber of the Washington Legislature.
Senate Bill 5078 prohibits the sale, attempted sale and distribution of high-capacity magazines. It does not prohibit the possession of high-capacity magazines. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.
“The Legislature put public safety above the interest of the gun lobby,” Ferguson said. “This historic vote represents an important step toward combating mass shootings. The devastation of mass shootings traumatizes entire communities. The research is clear — bans on the sale of high-capacity magazines saves lives. It’s time for the House of Representatives to act, and send this public safety bill to the Governor.”
“My community lost three beautiful souls to a mass shooter nearly six years ago,” Sen. Liias said. “These tragedies are all too common in America, but they can be prevented through reasonable gun safety legislation. The only use for large-capacity magazines is to inflict the maximum amount of injury in the shortest amount of time, which makes them a favored tool for mass shooters. These are weapons of war and they do not belong in our communities.”
Ferguson first proposed a limit on magazine capacity in 2017.
Nine states restrict high-capacity magazines. More than 93 million people live in states that block sales of magazines with more than 10 rounds.
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.
- A 2020 study published in Criminology and Public Policy, by a team headed by Daniel W. Webster of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that “LCM bans were associated with significant reductions in the incidence of fatal mass shootings.”
- A study published by the American Journal of Public Health in 2019 concluded that LCM bans save lives. The study found that “Attacks involving LCMs resulted in a 62% higher mean average death toll. The incidence of high-fatality mass shootings in non–LCM ban states was more than double the rate in LCM ban states; the annual number of deaths was more than 3 times higher.”
- Another 2020 study found that “large-capacity magazine bans were associated with 38% fewer fatalities and 77% fewer nonfatal injuries when a mass shooting occurred.” The primary author of that study, Michael Siegel, a community health science professor at Boston University, told CNN that whether a state allows large-capacity magazine sales is the single best predictor of the mass shooting rates in that state.
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 792 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.
The Washington State Medical Association, the Parent Teacher Association, the Washington Education Association, the Governor’s Office and the Seattle Police Department have joined gun violence prevention groups, public health organizations and prosecutors to support the bill.
The House version of the bill, HB 1164, is sponsored by Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle.
Every legislative session Attorney General Ferguson introduces a slate of Attorney General Request bills. “Attorney General Request” is a formal designation for bills proposed by his office. Since 2013, 27 Attorney General Request bills have been signed into law.
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.
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.
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Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org
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