Trial date set for Washington’s ban on high-capacity gun magazine sales

A federal judge in Seattle has scheduled a trial to start more than a year from now regarding the legal challenge to Washington state’s new restrictions on high-capacity gun magazines.

Judge David Estudillo of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington set Dec. 4, 2023, as the opening day for what is scheduled as an eight-day bench trial regarding the Second Amendment Foundation’s lawsuit against the state’s ban on sales of new large-capacity magazines for handguns and rifles.

The law, which took effect on July 1, prohibits the sale of gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds, along with the manufacturing, distribution or import of such magazines in Washington.

Any high-capacity magazines owned as of July 1 are unaffected by the law.

“We’re asking the court to declare Washington’s ban on original capacity magazines to be unconstitutional under the Second and Fourteenth amendments,” Alan M. Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Bellevue-based SAF, said at the time the lawsuit was filed.  “We want an injunction against the state because this ban criminalizes something that is common in a majority of states, and also leaves law-abiding Washington citizens more vulnerable to attack by ruthless criminals.”

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms, while the Fourteenth Amendment, in part, reads “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process.”

The complaint alleges the law will negatively impact Washingtonians’ self-defense options.

“The State of Washington has criminalized one of the most common and important means by which its citizens can exercise their fundamental right of self-defense,” the lawsuit reads. “By banning manufacturing, importation, distribution, and sale of standard-capacity firearm magazines that can carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition (‘standard capacity magazines’), the State has barred law-abiding residents from legally acquiring common ammunition magazines and deprived them of an effective means of self-defense.”

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has publicly promised to “vigorously defend” the law.

Scheduling the trial more than a year out could be influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, in which the majority held that Americans have the constitutional right to carry firearms.

That ruling has opened the door for another look at cases against high-capacity magazine bans that previously failed in lower courts.

The nation’s highest court vacated a ruling in a San Diego case that upheld California’s ban on magazines holding more than 10 bullets, sending it back to the lower court to reconsider following its Bruen decision.

The court also booted a case challenging New Jersey’s ban on high-capacity magazines back to a lower court for review in light of Bruen.

That means either case could end up being decided before Washington’s case, known as Sullivan v. Ferguson, goes to trial.

According to the schedule, discovery must be completed by July 10, all motions for dismissal must be filed by next Aug. 7, and a pretrial conference will be held on Nov. 20, 2023.


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