WA high-capacity magazine ban will save lives— like my sister’s. Courts must keep it | Opinion

I will never forget the fear. My body went numb when I received the call that my sister had been shot during the Harvest Festival mass shooting on October 1, 2017.

I flew into Las Vegas the very next morning, and my cab driver immediately knew why I was headed to the hospital. None of it felt real until I saw my sister lying in that hospital bed.

My family is so lucky that she survived. Every day I am grateful that my nieces and nephew get to spend their lives with their mother. So many families across the United States do not have this luxury of time.

It was all I could do to channel this moment of terror into advocating for change. I, along with millions of others across the United States, refuse to sit idly by because inaction is not a solution. I wish I could go back in time and stop my sister from attending that festival — but I can’t, so instead I work to shed light on how entire communities will carry the long-standing physical and psychological impacts of these atrocities for generations to come.

The simple truth is we all deserve to live free from the fear and impact of gun violence.

I’ve become an active participant in the gun violence prevention movement as a member of the Everytown Survivor Network and a volunteer with my local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. For years, I’ve shared our story with state and federal legislators, spoken at gun violence prevention meetings, and advocated for bills including sharing my testimony in Olympia in support of numerous gun safety measures.

In 2021, I testified in support of a ban on high-capacity magazines here in Washington. High-capacity magazines hold more than 10 bullets at a time, greatly increasing the number of potential fatalities and wounds inflicted by a weapon. Harvest Festival remains the deadliest shooting by one gunman in American history, in part because a single person was able to fire more than 1,000 bullets into a crowd in ten minutes. No civilian should have that type of power to harm.

I was deeply proud that Washington was one of several states to pass laws prohibiting both high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, a device that enables a semiautomatic firearm to mimic the lethal firing speed of a machine gun. So, you can imagine my disappointment when the gun lobby challenged our state’s high-capacity magazine law, despite the fact that these magazines have been used in the majority of our nation’s deadliest mass shooting incidents over the past decade.

Indeed, according to Everytown’s Mass Shootings in the United States database, mass shootings between 2015 and 2022 involving a firearm equipped with a high-capacity magazine resulted in nearly five times as many people shot, more than twice as many fatalities and nearly 10 times as many wounds per incident on average compared to those that did not involve the use of high-capacity magazines.

Thankfully, following a recent ruling from the state Supreme Court commissioner, high-capacity magazines will remain illegal in Washington while the state appeals a lower-court ruling that found the ban unconstitutional. But the fight for public safety rages on across our courts.

Since the United States Supreme Court decision in Bruen opened the door for judges to issue extreme decisions on gun safety, courts across the nation have repeatedly upheld high-capacity magazine bans as constitutional under the Second Amendment. I pray that our state appellate judges — and the Washington Supreme Court, should they choose to hear this case — will do the same.

For me, and countless others, this is personal. I continue to mourn the fifty-eight people who died that night and keep the hundreds more who were wounded in my thoughts. I know they bear the weight of gun violence to this day, just as I do.

The reality is we have the answers to combat gun violence in the United States. We can end this epidemic once and for all, and save countless lives. But we remain stuck in a cycle refusing to implement life-saving policies that would prevent these horrific instances and this ban does exactly that.

I implore the appellate court to uphold this life-saving ban on high-capacity magazines.

Zachary was born and raised in Washington; his sister is a survivor of the Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas in 2017. Since then, he has been an outspoken advocate for gun safety measures and a volunteer with Moms Demand Action and the Everytown Survivor Network. Zachary testified in favor of Washington’s high-capacity magazine ban in 2021.