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Supreme Court Commissioner: WA’s high-capacity magazine ban staying in place

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(The Center Square) – State Supreme Court Commissioner Michael Johnston ruled Thursday morning that the buying or selling of high-capacity magazines – those capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition – will remain illegal in Washington while legal challenges against the ban are being decided.

That means Johnston is keeping in place an emergency stay he issued earlier this month.

The ban had been effectively overturned on April 8 when Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Gary Bashor ruled the law itself was unconstitutional in a lawsuit between the state and Gator’s Custom Guns in Kelso and issued an injunction to stop the state from enforcing the ban.

Within 90 minutes of Bashor’s ruling, Johnston approved a request by the Attorney General’s Office to stay the lower court’s ruling.

Bashor in his ruling striking down Washington’s high-capacity magazine ban referenced the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Bruen decision, in which the nation’s highest court ruled 6-3 that firearm regulations must be “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition and firearm regulation.”

In Thursday’s 81-page opinion, Johnston circled back to “highly debatable” issues in Bashor’s decision that he mentioned in a hearing last week.

“Stated another way, debatability does not turn on a finding that the lower court erred, but rather, whether reasonable minds can differ on the issue at hand,” Johnston wrote, saying he considered the potential harm that could result from lifting the stay and allowing high-capacity magazines to be sold in the meantime.

“The historical record shows that [large-capacity magazines] greatly increase the number of fatalities and injuries inflicted in a mass shooting and that the frequency of such incidents has grown in recent years,” Johnston wrote. “The idea that I could lift the stay and something awful happens with a [large capacity magazine] that would not have been obtained but for that decision keeps me awake at night.”

Washington’s high-capacity magazine ban went into effect on July 1, 2022. The ban prohibits the sale of magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds, along with the manufacturing, distribution or import of said magazines in the state.

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