With Democrats in complete control of the legislature, Washington is one of the most likely states to really target the Second Amendment this legislative session, and lawmakers are going to get their first chance next week when the Senate Law and Justice Committee hears two awful bills that restrict the right to carry and ban the most commonly-sold ammunition magazines in the United States.
The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action recently alerted members to the dangers contained in the proposals.
On Monday, January 25, the committee will consider Senate Bill 5078, a measure that will ban the manufacture, possession, sale, transfer, etc. of magazines that “are capable of holding” or hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. This includes conversion kits or parts from which any such magazine may be assembled. These so called “high capacity” magazines are in fact standard equipment for commonly-owned firearms that many Americans legally and effectively use for an entire range of legitimate purposes, such as self-defense or competition. Those who own non-compliant magazines prior to the ban are only allowed to possess them on their own property and in other limited instances such as at licensed shooting ranges or while hunting. Prohibited magazines have to be transported unloaded and locked separately from firearms and stored at home locked, making them unavailable for self-defense. Any violation of this measure is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the state of Washington, is currently considering a legal challenge to California’s ban on “high capacity” magazines. A three judge panel of Ninth Circuit declared the state’s ban unconstitutional, but an en banc review of the decision has not yet taken place, leaving most of the law intact for now. Still, the fact that Democrats in Washington are attempting to pass legislation knowing full well that it’s likely to be declared unconstitutional down the road tells me that they’re going to press as hard as they can until the courts tell them to stop.
On Tuesday, January 26, Senate Bill 5038 will be considered by the Senate Law and Justice Committee. As drafted, the bill makes it a crime to openly carry, on the person or in a vehicle, a firearm or other “weapon” if the person is participating in or attending a “demonstration” in a public place. “Demonstration” is loosely defined to mean any behavior by at least one person expressing views or airing grievances which is intended to or attracts an unspecified number of onlookers (a “crowd”). The bill also prohibits openly carrying a firearm or other weapon within 1,000 feet of a demonstration in a public place after a law enforcement officer advises the person to leave. The intent of the bill is called into question because a single person expressing their views on the sidewalk could be considered a “demonstration” under SB 5038. Senate Bill 5038 potentially causes those who are engaging in otherwise lawful activities to become criminals because of the actions of others.
As the NRA alert points out, this legislation is problematic from a couple of different perspectives. For starters, I have issues with any legislation that demands I forfeit my Second Amendment rights while I’m exercising my First Amendment right to speak my mind, but the fact that a “demonstration” can be defined down to a single person makes this law ripe for even more abuse.
If you’re a gun owner in Washington State, please contact your state Senators and urge them to reject SB 5078 and SB 5038. These bills won’t make anyone safer, but they’ll make everyone less free.