Washington's high-capacity magazine ban back in court, ruling expected next week


There was no decision from the bench Wednesday afternoon in the Gators Custom Guns case regarding the state ban on high-capacity magazines for firearms. 

State Supreme Court Commissioner Mike Johnston opened the hearing with remarks for what he said was, “the importance of a number of people watching this case.”

“Personal side note, I’m a gun enthusiast. I know a lot about guns,” he said.

Johnston is the court commissioner who last week granted a temporary stay of a ruling from Cowlitz County that found the high-capacity magazine ban unconstitutional – that is, a violation of the Second Amendment.

He referenced how quickly the stay was issued, less than three hours after the ruling from Cowlitz County, stating he was prepared.

“We have templates for these things," he said.

He said the court received an email on April 8 “at 3:17 pm from the Attorney General’s office and attached was the order from Superior Court.”

“Based on my research I had a pretty good notion of how this was going to be argued," he said.

Johnston said he knew within 15 to 20 minutes of reading the 55-page ruling from the Cowlitz County Superior Court Judget Gary Bashor “that there were some highly debatable issues.”

“The emergency motion came in by email at about 4:14pm, so in looking at that I found I had anticipated just about all the arguments that the attorney general was going to make," he explained.

“I decided that I was going to issue a temporary stay,” said Johnston, “the next morning I came to work and there were nasty voice memos and I got a phone call from someone who said, ‘You friggin suck bro,' so I understand there are some issues like this.”

William McGinty, representing the state Attorney General's Office, told Johnston about the flurry of activity at Gator’s Custom Guns just after the ban was ruled unconstitutional, before the stay was issued.

“In the two hours, roughly two hours from the ruling, Gator’s Guns sold hundreds of large capacity magazines," he said.

Austin Hatcher, attorney with The Silent Majority Foundation representing Gator’s Custom Guns, responded to Johnston’s assertion that lawmakers who passed the ban on large capacity magazines did so to allay concerns about mass shootings.

“LCM’s are effective in self-defense as well," he said. "Let’s say that your honor was in your home at 3 a.m. and some of these crazies who’ve been calling you recently about this decision, you know, they show up and they’re armed and gonna knock down your door. I would venture to guess that the court would rather have a 30-round magazine, than a seven-round magazine.”

Commissioner Johnston responded, “You know what I would have.Hhere’s what I would have if somebody went and knocked down my door. I would have an old M1911A1, like my dad had from World War 2.”

He said he also might use a 12-gauge shotgun.

I don’t buy this idea that you need to have an AR-15 or Glock or something with 15 or 30 or whatever rounds," he added. “I know shooting and I don’t find that persuasive."

McGinty argued high-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment because they are not "arms."

“The only things that are protected by the Constitution are those that are in common use for self-defense," he said.

The hearing concluded without Commissioner Johnston making any decision about the stay order.

“Hopefully early next week I can get a ruling out,” Johnston said.