U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington has set Dec. 4, 2023—more than a year from now—as the opening day for what is scheduled as an eight-day bench trial in the Second Amendment Foundation’s challenge of a magazine ban law passed earlier this year in Washington State, Ammoland has learned.
According to the schedule, a pretrial conference will be held on Nov. 20, 2023. The case is known as Sullivan v. Ferguson.
The schedule comes from the office of recently-seated Chief District Judge David G. Estudillo, a Joe Biden appointee who was born and grew up in Washington state.
The law, which took effect July 1, prohibits the manufacture, sale or importation of cartridge magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds. It applies to magazines for any firearm, not just rifles.
Joining SAF in the lawsuit are Rainier Arms, LLC, the Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc., a California-based group, and a private citizen, Gabriella Sullivan, for whom the lawsuit is named. They are represented by attorneys David H. Thompson, Peter A. Patterson, and William V. Bergstrom with Cooper & Kirk PLLC in Washington, D.C., Cody J. Wisniewski at the Mountain States Legal Foundation, and locally by Joel Ard at Ard Law Group.
Defendants are Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste, King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall, Kitsap County Sheriff John Gese, Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, Kitsap County Prosecutor Chad M. Enright and Grays Harbor County Prosecutor Katie Svoboda, in their official capacities.
According to the schedule, discovery must be completed by next July 10, and all motions for dismissal must be filed by next Aug. 7.
Why so long? There are various reasons which might be valid. There are already two other cases—one in New Jersey and the other in California—challenging bans on so-called “large capacity” magazines, and either could be decided before the Washington case goes to trial. In late June, after the Supreme Court ruled in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen that “means-end scrutiny” cannot be applied to Second Amendment cases, possibly the most important aspect of the 6-3 decision authored by Justice Clarence Thomas. It has opened the door for re-examination of cases that failed previously in lower federal courts.
Washington and California are both part of the Ninth Circuit, the largest of all the federal court circuits encompassing western states from Arizona to Alaska and Hawaii, plus Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands. If the Ninth Circuit—considered by many to be the most liberal in the country—now decides the California magazine ban is unconstitutional, as originally decided by the district court, Washington’s ban is also nullified.
It has never been clear why or how lawmakers arbitrarily determined 10 rounds is acceptable for an ammunition magazine but 11 isn’t. What is known is that Elliot Rodger, the Isla Vista killer responsible for a 2014 murder spree in California, used only California-compliant 10-round magazines. He stabbed three of his victims and shot three others dead.
When SAF and its partners filed the original lawsuit, Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb noted in a news release, “Many of the most popular handguns and modern semiautomatic rifles come standard with magazines that hold more than ten rounds. Such firearms are legally owned by Washington residents. As we note in the lawsuit, there is no reliable proof that restrictions on new manufacturing or sales of such magazines will reduce violent crime. This law unfairly and arbitrarily penalizes honest citizens for crimes they didn’t commit, in the hopes of preventing crimes they wouldn’t dream of committing.”
Ferguson and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee both support the magazine ban, and would also like to ban so-called “assault weapons.”
The lawsuit seeks to strike down the ban on Second and Fourteenth Amendment grounds.
By setting this calendar, Judge Estudillo has actually done SAF a favor of sorts by answering a question so many Evergreen State gun owners have been asking: Has there been any progress in the case? Now those gun owners know why SAF has been unable to answer.
Federal gun rights cases can drag for months, and in this particular case, those months add up to 1½ years, with no guarantee a ruling will come anytime soon after the scheduled trial.
Then, again, with the California magazine ban case already being remanded for reconsideration under the new Bruen guidelines, the Washington dilemma may have already been solved by that time, unless the traditionally liberal Ninth Circuit, possibly faced with having to strike down the California ban, simply drags its feet.
About Dave Workman