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Washington Supreme Court will hear case on high-capacity ammo magazine ban

Several handguns sitting in a display case.
Aristide Economopoulos
NJ Monitor
Caso’s Gun-A-Rama has been open since 1967. Saturday 2/11/2023 Jersey City, NJ. © Aristide Economopoulos/for NJ Monitor

The Washington State Supreme Court has agreed to directly review a lower court ruling that invalidated the state’s ban on the sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Gary Bashor ruled April 8 that the ban violated the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and part of the Washington Constitution granting individuals a right to bear arms for self-defense.

Bashor’s ruling blocked state authorities from enforcing the law, clearing the way for sales of high-capacity ammunition magazines to restart.

Roughly 90 minutes after his decision came down, Supreme Court Commissioner Michael Johnston granted the request of state attorneys for a temporary stay to restore the prohibition. On April 25, Johnston extended the stay through the resolution of the case.

This case stems from a dispute between the state and a firearms retailer – Gator’s Custom Guns in Kelso, along with the business’ owner Walter Wentz.

The state Supreme Court, in a separate action this week, agreed to also consider the request of Gator’s Custom Guns to modify Johnston’s ruling and lift the stay. Legal briefs are due from each side this month. Justices will take up that matter in a July 10 conference.

Gator’s filed a legal challenge against the ban on high-capacity magazines months after it went into effect in July 2022. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson followed up with an enforcement action, alleging the shop had violated state law by continuing to sell the prohibited magazines.

The attorney general’s office and lawyers for Gator’s asked the Supreme Court to take up the case, rather than having it go to a state appeals court. The court decided to take the case during a conference on Wednesday and issued an order to that effect on Thursday.

“Both parties agreed that this would end up in front of the Supreme Court eventually. We’re happy to see the court take it up,” said Pete Serrano, founder of the Silent Majority Foundation and a Republican candidate for state attorney general.

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence.

Jerry Cornfield is a reporter at the Washington State Standard. He joined the Standard after 20 years covering Olympia statehouse news for The Everett Herald.