Washington legislature OKs limits on sale of high-capacity magazines

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington state Legislature has approved the prohibition of the manufacture, distribution and sale of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The Seattle Times reported the measure passed on a 55-42 vote in the Democratic-held House late Friday night. The bill — which passed the state Senate last month — now heads to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

The measure limits magazines for rifles that hold 20 or 30 rounds and for a host of pistols that carry more than 10 rounds. It does not prohibit the possession of such magazines.

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The legislation — requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson — includes exceptions to magazine limits for law enforcement and corrections officers, members of the armed forces, Washington’s National Guard and for licensed firearms dealers who sell to those institutions.

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AR-15 rifles line a shelf in the gun library at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia Dec. 15, 2015.  (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst )

Violations would be a gross misdemeanor, which in Washington is punishable by up to 364 days in county jail, a maximum fine of up to $5,000, or both.

The legislation also makes the sale or offering for distribution or sale of a prohibited magazine a violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act. That law allows the attorney general’s office to take action on alleged violations of the act to get restitution and civil penalties.

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In a legislative floor speech, Democratic Rep. Liz Berry recounted the mass shooting in 2011 during an event held by then-U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona, for whom Berry worked for at the time. Six people died in that attack, and 13 others, including Giffords, who was shot in the head, were injured.

“Gun violence is preventable, this bill will save lives,” said Berry.

In a May 16, 2006, photo, rifles line an Ottawa hunting store’s shelves.  (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

The House vote on Friday fell along party lines, with nearly all Democrats voting in support. Republicans voted against it, and in a show of protest, forced the Democrats to spend hours debating potential amendments to the legislation.

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“It is clear that the bill before us now impairs the right of the individual citizen to bear arms,” Republican Rep. Jesse Young said during the debate.

In a statement issued after the vote, Ferguson said Washington would join nine states that already restrict high-capacity magazines in some form.

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Ferguson’s office noted that the Washington measure is like a Maryland measure because it focuses on the supply side and does not prohibit the possession of high-capacity magazines.



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