OLYMPIA — The Washington state Senate voted late Wednesday to ban the manufacture, distribution and sale of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
If the bill passes the House and becomes law, the ban would limit not just magazines for rifles that hold 20 or 30 rounds, but for a host of semiautomatic pistols, which often carry more than 10 rounds.
The vote on Senate Bill 5078 by the Senate's Democratic majority marks the first time such a bill has passed a floor vote at the Legislature.
For years, restrictions on firearm magazines have been a top priority for many Democrats and advocates of stricter gun regulations. Conservatives and gun-rights advocates have meanwhile assailed such laws as not effective and an infringement on the Second Amendment.
In a floor speech urging passage, bill sponsor Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, invoked the summer 2016 Mukilteo shooting where a gunman killed three people and injured another, and stopped shooting after running out of ammunition.
"On July 30, 2016, I vowed to myself and to my community that I would do everything in my power to ensure that no family has to go through what our community went through," Liias said. "This measure will make Washington a safer place."
The legislation — which passed 28-20 — was requested by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Whether Democrats can get the proposal through the House by the end of the legislative session — which concludes March 10 — remains unclear.
In a regularly-scheduled meeting with reporters hours before the bill passed, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, didn't commit to giving SB 5078 a floor vote in that chamber.
But, she said, "It's never a harmful year to do bills on gun safety."
The version adopted Wednesday prohibits the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale or offer of a sale for magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, according to the bill language. An earlier version of the bill applied to magazines with more than 17 rounds.
The bill as it passed includes many exceptions to the prohibition, such as for corrections officers and law enforcement, members of the armed forces or Washington's National Guard, and for licensed firearms dealers that sell to those institutions.
In speeches and proposed amendments, Republicans drove home that point and raised concerns that the restrictions could hurt people's ability to defend themselves.
"This is a serious bill that will jeopardize the safety of Washingtonians," Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, said during the debate.
"These are the regular magazines we see out there every day," Fortunato said at another point.
Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, pointed to the magazines already in circulation among gun owners, saying, "This bill isn't going to do anything."
Ferguson, a Democrat, rejects that thinking, saying in a statement, "This historic vote represents an important step toward combating mass shootings."
In his statement, the attorney general noted that nine states restrict high-capacity magazines, with more than 93 million people living in states that block sales of magazines with more than 10 rounds.
If SB 5078 passes the House and becomes law with the signature of Gov. Jay Inslee, violations would be a gross misdemeanor. In Washington that penalty can bring up to 364 days in county jail or a fine of as high as $5,000.
The first time Washington lawmakers tried a floor vote on a high-capacity magazine ban was in 2020, when House Democratic lawmakers prepared to debate a bill.
But House Republican lawmakers derailed that vote by sponsoring more than 120 amendments. Debating those amendments could have eaten up days or weeks of floor debate. In response, House Democrats shelved the bill.