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Washington Judge Strikes Magazine Ban — Immediately Reversed

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A so-called "large capacity" magazine being inserted into a rifle.
A so-called "large capacity" magazine being inserted into a rifle.

In layman’s terms: The Washington State ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds remains in place.

On April 8, Washington State Superior Court Judge, Gary Basher, declared the state’s ban on “large capacity magazines” to be unconstitutional. Within two hours of issuing his judgment, the Washington State Supreme Court stayed his decision.

The well-reasoned ruling was stayed just hours after being issued, citing “public safety” concerns. The stay order was issued not by a judge, but by Washington State Supreme Court Commissioner, Michael E. Johnston.

Shortly after Judge Basher’s decision, Washington State Attorney General, Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued the following statement:

Today’s decision is incorrect and we will immediately file a motion asking the State Supreme Court to keep this public safety law in effect. 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. It is also essential to addressing mass shootings in our communities. This law saves lives, and I will continue to defend it.

This rapidity of action by the court is exceedingly rare, especially when courts are addressing Second Amendment issues, which tend to move relatively slowly through the judicial process. Many legal experts in the Second Amendment community have asserted grave concerns with the impartiality of the court, even going so far as to assert that the stay was already teed up pending the pro-Second Amendment decision.

In the case, known as State of Washington v. Gator Custom Guns in Kitz County, a Washington-based company challenged the state’s restriction on magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which went into effect on July 1, 2022 via Senate Bill 5078. The State then filed a Consumer Protection Act Enforcement Action against the company. Both lawsuits were then consolidated into one.

Judge Basher declined to engage in the “public safety” argument and based his decision simply on the constitutionality of the law.

The Court finds there are no factual circumstances this Court can conceive under which ESSB 5078 as written and codified could be constitutional under the United States Constitution, Second Amendment. The Court finds ESSB 5078 is facially unconstitutional under the United States Constitution.

The State ignored the precedent set in Bruen, and argued that magazines aren’t firearms, which Judge Basher easily refuted:

The purpose of a magazine of any size is to facilitate the function of a semi-automatic weapon. Magazines (which includes LCMs) are designed as critical functional components of the operational mechanism of semi-automatic weapons. Absence of a magazine completely defeats the function of a semi-automatic firearm, even in those guns where a single shell may be fired without the magazine in place.

Judge Basher further stated, “The State has failed to provide a relevantly similar historical analogue from the proper period, and therefore the State has failed to meet its burden under the Bruen historical analogue test.”

For now, the magazine ban continues to exist.

We will continue to monitor the story.

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