Two new laws aimed at reducing mass shootings and cracking down on the proliferation of so-called “ghost guns” go into effect July 1 in Washington. Majority Democrats in the state Legislature passed the new restrictions earlier this year.
One of the new laws bans the manufacture, import, distribution or sale of a gun magazine that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition. There are exceptions for the armed forces and law enforcement. Gun owners who already possess higher capacity magazines can keep them. A violation is a gross misdemeanor.
According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Washington joins nine other states and the District of Columbia in limiting gun magazine capacity. Backers say the restriction is an effective way to reduce the incidents of mass shootings. Gun rights advocates say the magazine limit is unnecessary and unconstitutional and have filed a lawsuit aimed at overturning the new restriction.
The other new law deals with untraceable firearms, which are guns that don't have serial numbers and therefore can't be traced by law enforcement. In 2019, Washington lawmakers passed a law making it a class C felony to manufacture "ghost guns" with the intent to sell them.
Under the new law, that restriction is expanded to prohibit the manufacture, assembly, purchase or sale of an untraceable firearm. A first violation is a civil infraction that comes with a fine of up to $500.
The new law also bans the sale or purchase of an unfinished firearm frame or receiver.
Beginning in March of next year, the law will further expand to ban the possession, transport or receipt of an untraceable firearm. There are exceptions for guns made prior to 1968, guns that are permanently inoperable or guns that have been given a serial number by a federally licensed firearms dealer.
A third new gun law went into effect in early June that expanded the locations where weapons are prohibited or restricted in Washington. Under the new rules, the open carry of weapons is banned in local government buildings — like city halls — where public meetings are held.
Additionally, all firearms or other weapons are banned, even those that are not openly carried, at school board meetings held on school district owned or leased property.
The new law also prohibits weapons at certain election facilities, including ballot counting centers and voter registration officers. There's an exception for concealed pistol permit holders, although that exemption does not apply at ballot counting centers when counting is happening. In those times, weapons are completely banned.
A first violation is a misdemeanor.
Sponsors of the legislation said one of their goals was to address the issue of "armed intimidation" in the public square, especially in light of heated school board meetings and threats of violence surrounding elections.
Last year, legislative Democrats banned the open carry of weapons at the state Capitol and at public demonstrations.