Federal Way Discount Guns, 4101 S. 324th St.

OLIVIA SULLIVAN, Federal Way Discount Guns, 4101 S. 324th St.

Judge rules against Federal Way Discount Guns

The gun store has argued magazine ban is unconstitutional

A judge found April 7 that Federal Way Discount Guns and its owner Mohammed Baghai violated state law last year when it sold “large capacity magazines,” or LCMs, after the state Legislature outlawed those devices.

King County Superior Court Judge Wyman Yip, in finding Discount Guns and Baghai broke the law, also specifically determined that the state’s ban on LCMs was constitutional, negating the key argument that Baghai had relied on in court filings.

Laws are presumed constitutional, so “the burden is on the defendant in this case to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that the new LCM laws violated the constitution, Yip said in court April 7.

Baghai and Discount Guns didn’t convince Yip that LCMs count as arms, nor that the Second Amendment applies to the restriction of their sale. Nor did the judge find that the new laws violate the commerce or privileges and immunities clause, as Baghai had argued in court.

“As such, the court finds (those new laws) constitutional,” Yip concluded.

The judge’s findings April 7 were part of his decision to grant the state Attorney General’s motion for partial summary judgement. In essence, that’s a decision that the facts are so clear that there is no need to take a given argument to trial — the judge can just make a ruling that one side is right.

The ruling is a blow to Baghai and the gun store, but the case isn’t over just yet. The next step will be for the court to determine civil penalties, attorney fees and costs and the amount of earnings FW Discount Guns must give up from the LCM sales. The defendants face a maximum penalty of $7,500 for each time the store offered a high-capacity magazine for sale or illegally sold one, according to the AG’s office.

Other legal challenges to the LCM law remain.

The lawsuits Sullivan v. Ferguson and Brumback v. Ferguson both make the case that the LCM laws are unconstitutional. A trial in the Sullivan case is currently set for December, and the parties in Brumback are waiting for a ruling on a preliminary injunction, Attorney General’s office spokesperson Dan Jackson said in an email.

“We are confident the ban on the sale of large capacity magazines is constitutional,” Jackson said.

FW Discount Guns said in a court filing that “regardless of the decision(s) in those cases,” the LCM issue will be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Baghai and his attorneys have not responded to requests from the Federal Way Mirror newspaper for an interview.

The law

The story begins in March 2022, when state lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee passed SB 5078, a bill proposed by the Attorney General that banned the sale or manufacture of gun magazines that can take more than 10 rounds of ammo at a time. Gun owners could still keep those magazines if they already owned them, or sell them to law enforcement, the military, or to an out-of-state buyer.

Those “large capacity magazines,” the AG’s office said, have been involved in at least 85 mass shootings since 1980, including the Uvalde, Parkland, Las Vegas, Newtown and Aurora massacres, and attackers using them tend to have higher death tolls.

After the law took effect in July 2022, AG’s office investigators visited gun stores across Washington over the summer, trying covertly to buy LCMs from 25 different retailers. Most refused to sell them, but Federal Way Discount Guns sold LCMs to investigators on four occasions, the AG’s office said, acknowledging that the sales were illegal and displaying the LCMs openly.

That’s how the case against the retailer began. In December 2022, Ferguson sued Discount Guns, asking a court to restrain them from selling more of the magazines and to grant civil penalties against the store for doing so in the first place, as well as destroying or returning all the LCMs they have on hand.

In August, for example, the AG’s office says a sales person helped an investigator purchase three of the magazines for $71.54 in cash.

According to the Attorney General: “The sales representative told the investigator, ‘It’s the nature of the beast, but I can’t give you a receipt. You know why, right?’ ”

“The investigator said, ‘Because they are more than 10 rounds?’ ”

“The sales representative said, ‘Yep.’ “

“When the cash register printed out a receipt for the transaction, the sales representative crumpled the receipt and threw it away in a trash can,” the AG’s complaint concluded. And on three other covert buys, salespeople (including Baghai) again threw the receipts in the trash, according to the complaint.

Aside from violating state law, allowing the store to sell the magazines would grant them an unfair competitive advantage over other gun stores, the AG’s office argued. The court issued a preliminary injunction in December, ordering the store to stop selling the LCMs while the case proceeded.

The legal case

Baghai and Discount Guns encountered one setback earlier this year. The court ordered Baghai in January to securely store all the LCMs and create an inventory list of each of them. Instead, he returned all LCMs in the store’s possession to vendors, the court found, without making an inventory of the magazines or providing notice to the Attorney General’s office so that the state could witness the return of the LCMs. For failing to provide notice of their plan to return the devices, Judge Yip found Baghai and the store in contempt of court in March for intentionally violating the court order. The judge ordered Baghai to record the specifics of each LCM he returned and the distributors to which he sent them within 10 days, with a $2,000 per day penalty looming if he failed to comply.

“Recreating an accurate account of the LCMs ... will be a difficult task,” the court found. “Defendants should shoulder the cost of this difficult task.”

An audit ordered by Judge Yip is ongoing, according to the AG’s office.

That issue notwithstanding, the heart of Baghai’s legal defense is the same argument other critics of the AG have raised: The LCM laws were unconstitutional from the start.

“At the heart of this case is a statute ... that will face many years of litigation as to whether it violates the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Baghai’s defense attorneys wrote in court documents.

Baghai “is not someone who brazenly disregarded the LCM ban,” his attorneys wrote.

“Instead, he is someone who properly listened to the very persons who were to enforce the law - the Police and Sheriff who specifically told him that the LCM ban law was unconstitutional and that it would not be enforced. ... Unfortunately for Mr. Baghai, he failed to realize that there existed an entity known as the Attorney General’s office who ... has chosen to enforce the law through civil lawsuits that the State of Washington can well afford ... while citizen business owners like Mr. Baghai cannot.”

The LCM law is broken into two parts: RCW 9.41.370, which bans the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of LCMs, and RCW 9.41.375, which deems the sale or distribution of an LCM as an unfair act in violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

The first part of the law violates the Dormant Commerce and Privileges and Immunities Clauses, Baghai argued, by unfairly banning LCM sales to customers in-state while allowing them to customers outside of Washington.And it violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Washington’s constitutional right to bear arms, Baghai argued, because the magazines are neither dangerous nor unusual for gun owners, and blocking their purchase infringes people’s ability to arm and protect themselves.

The second part of the law (RCW 9.41.375) references the sale and distribution of magazines online, and Baghai and Discount Guns argued in court filings that they couldn’t have violated it or the consumer protection act because they never sold any LCMs over the internet. They don’t even operate an online storefront, they said in court filings.

Ultimately, that argument hinged on a grammatical debate over the language legislators used in crafting the law — one that Baghai and FW Discount Guns appeared to have lost.

The court interpreted the statute as outlawing both “facilitating the sale, distribution, or transfer” online of LCMs, as well as “distributing, selling, (and) offering for sale” those magazines in general. In other words, the in-person sales counted under the law, too, according to Attorney General spokesperson Dan Jackson.

In finding that FW Discount Guns did violate the law, Yip began by laying out the undisputed facts of the case.

“There does not appear to be any genuine dispute that these four sales did in fact occur, that the sales involved ... LCMs, the sellers were the defendants, and that these acts were in violation of (the LCM law),” Yip said.

And under RCW 9.41.375, the second part of the law, selling those LCMs is an “unfair or deceptive act or practice ... for the purposes of the consumer protection act,” Yip said.

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