No ban on high-capacity magazines this year, but lawmakers allocate cash for bump stocks

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law Thursday to use $150,000 in taxpayers’ dollars to reimburse owners of bump stocks if they turn them into law enforcement.

Bump stocks are devices that enable semiautomatic rifles to fire at a rate approaching fully automatic. They were used by a gunman who opened fire in 2017 on a large crowd at an open-air country music in Las Vegas, killing 58 and injuring over 500 others in the deadliest such shooting in modern American history.

A controversial bill to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines, which have been used in several mass shootings, including in Washington state, won’t get a vote this year.

With the exception of budget bills, Wednesday was the deadline for bills to pass in the chamber where they started.

Through an aide, Attorney General Bob Ferguson expressed disappointment that neither the House nor the Senate took action on “common-sense restrictions” on magazine capacity. A magazine is a spring-loaded device that stores and feeds ammunition rounds into a repeating firearm.

SB 5062 and its companion, HB 1068, would have banned firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

“Our vote count showed us one vote short in the Senate, so we’re not surprised they did not bring it to the floor,” said Brionna Aho, Ferguson’s spokeswoman. A Senate Democratic spokesman said he didn’t have a vote count.

Ferguson will work with House and Senate members to bring the bill back next year, Aho said.

The National Rifle Association said the bills not advancing past the cutoff is a win for Washington gun owners. The NRA lobbied against the restrictions, saying magazines holding more than 10 rounds are standard and make up more than half the magazines owned in the United States.

“This legislation would have criminalized the mere possession of standard capacity magazines,” NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said.

At committee hearings, Ferguson urged lawmakers to approve the bills, saying four federal courts of appeals have affirmed state laws limiting magazine capacity.

“With high-capacity magazines, you do not need to reload,” said Ferguson, citing their use in mass shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the country music festival in Las Vegas, a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and a high school in Parkland, Florida, among others.

The lead sponsor of the Senate bill, Democrat Patty Kuderer of Bellevue, also invoked mass shootings in support of the bill, referring to the 2016 shootings in Mukilteo and Burlington that left eight dead.

“High-capacity magazines enable those with criminal intent to maximize carnage. Limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds strikes a balance, allowing critical time for first responders to intervene and save lives while permitting magazines with enough ammunition to maintain self-defense,” Kuderer said.

Jane Milhans, a University Place resident, said she opposed the bill because many older people, especially women, need guns for self-defense with ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

“Most of them cannot rack slides on those guns that hold less than 10 rounds,” said Milhans, who is a certified firearms instructor and volunteers to train women. “So what they pick for their physical capability is a full-size pistol that can hold 17, 18 rounds. There are pistols that hold up to 30 rounds.”

No Republicans were expected to vote in favor of the bill.

When the Senate Law and Justice Committee debated the bill in January and ultimately approved it, Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, said the bill might violate the state Constitution, which says the private possession of firearms shall not be “impaired.”

“This is something that actually diminishes in value the vast majority of firearms that are currently in existence,” Holy said.

At a press conference Thursday, Democratic legislative leaders touted their track records on gun-safety measures this legislative session.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, a Covington Democrat, cited three bills passed by Wednesday’s cutoff, including a measure known as the “ghost gun bill” that would make it a felony to manufacture or possess an “undetectable” or “untraceable” firearm. The bill is set for a hearing March 26 in a Senate committee.

“Undetectable” is defined as a firearm that doesn’t have enough metal to be picked up by a walk-through detector or that would not generate an X-ray image. “Untraceable” is defined as a firearm manufactured after July 1 of this year that does not have a serial number registered with a federally-licensed manufacturer, said the lead sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle.

Ferguson, who requested the bill, said earlier this year that the legislation was aimed at a Texas nonprofit, Defense Distributed, that wants to place computer-aided design files on its website that people could download to make guns without undergoing background checks.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, a Spokane Democrat, said bills were passed by Wednesday’s deadline that focused on keeping children safe from firearms, including measures protecting children in child care centers and keeping firearms from youths at risk of hurting themselves or others.

They also included SB 5954, which Inslee signed into law on Thursday to provide $150,000 for the state’s bump-stock buyback program.

A federal regulation takes effect March 26 that reclassifies bump stocks as machine guns and makes it a felony to own one. Before that date, owners must either destroy the devices or turn them over to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, or state and local law enforcement agencies.

A State Patrol spokeswoman, Capt. Monica Alexander, said it’s unclear how many Washington state residents own bump stocks.

“There’s no way of tracking it,” Alexander said.

The State Patrol plans to accept bump stocks around the state on March 17-18 and March 24-25. In Tacoma, bump-stock owners can go to the State Patrol office between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at 2502 112th St. East. It’s first come, first served.

People will get a voucher to receive $150 in the mail. More information can be found at www.wsp.wa.gov/buyback.

Alexander said the State Patrol will accept receipts for the $150 reimbursements from bump-stock owners who turn them in to the ATF or other law enforcement agencies through June 30 or when all of the state funds are spent — whichever happens first.

Individuals are limited to each receiving reimbursements for up to five bump stocks.

After signing the bump-stock buyback bill, Inslee told reporters that he could not speak to the demise of the bill to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“Generally, I have thought weapons of war do not belong on our streets,” he said.

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