Earlier this month, the Washington state legislature passed a bill (SB 5078) “prohibiting the manufacture, importation, distribution, selling, and offering for sale of large capacity magazines.” Defined as any ammunition feeding device with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds, the bill is expected to be enacted by Governor Jay Inslee soon. When signed, Washington will become the 11th state/district to restrict “high-capacity” magazines since the expiration of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) in 2004.
Originally passed in 1994, the AWB, among other provisions, prohibited the manufacture of “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” with a capacity greater than 10 rounds. Nearly three decades later, this arbitrary number remains the standard among states regulating magazine capacity.
Magazine Capacity Laws
As of March 2022, the following states restrict high-capacity magazines:
It should also be noted that while some states may not have statewide restrictions on magazine capacity, individual counties or cities within may have their own enforceable laws. In Illinois, for example, Cook County – which includes Chicago – limits magazine capacity to 10 rounds.
While Washington’s latest anti-gun bill is troublesome for firearm owners and FFLs in both the state and across the country, its passage is not without a silver lining. Notably, SB 5078 omits the possession of high-capacity magazines from its ban, meaning gun owners may still own and use magazines previously purchased without legal ramifications. However, the bill does prevent residents from “importing” high-capacity magazines purchased out of state, including those purchased online.
Though, if other states with similar regulations are any indication, policing such transactions and movement may be difficult as gun owners have proven they will go to extreme lengths to obtain magazines they deem standard capacity.
More to Come?
With one out of five states now prohibiting high-capacity magazines, others have introduced legislation to do the same. Currently, politicians in Delaware and Minnesota, among others, are reviewing bills to restrict magazine capacity in their respective states.
DE SB 6 – Titled “Delaware Large Capacity Magazine Prohibition Act;” would make it unlawful to manufacture, sell, offer for sale, purchase, receive, transfer, or possess any large-capacity magazine of more than 17 rounds
MN HF 4104 – Would make it unlawful for a person to manufacture, import, transfer, own, or possess large-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds