PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against a gun retailer Tuesday, alleging the Kelso shop illegally sold high-capacity magazines.
The lawsuit claims Gator’s Custom Guns, and its owner Walter Wentz, intentionally violated the Consumer Protection Act by selling high-capacity magazines with 10 or more rounds, which were banned in the state starting in July 2022.
This is the second lawsuit filed by Ferguson’s office to enforce the high-capacity magazine ban, according to the Attorney General’s office.
Ferguson’s office claims Gator’s Custom Guns continued selling “potentially thousands” of high-capacity magazines after the ban went into effect and offered 11,408 high-capacity magazines to the public. The suit also alleges the company sold five high-capacity magazines to investigators with the AG’s office on two separate occasions, roughly 10 months after the ban went into effect.
During the first visit, a sales representative unlawfully sold three high-capacity magazines to an investigator, including a Glock 33-round magazine, a Magpul 27-round magazine, and a Magpul AR 40-round magazine, the AG’s office alleges. The office also claims Wentz sold two magazines with a capacity four times greater than the maximum allowed under the law.
While investigating Gator’s Custom Guns, Ferguson’s office discovered the retailer is one of the largest and “most persistent” buyers of high-capacity magazines from out-of-state distributors.
The lawsuit comes amid a statewide sweep by Ferguson’s office to identify gun retailers who are violating the law, the attorney general’s office said.
Investigators reported that the shop had the largest display of magazines seen in the office’s sweep, claiming that a substantial portion of the store was filled with barrels and boxes of magazine displays. Ferguson’s office stated it tried to obtain records from Gator’s to find out how much inventory it distributed however the retailer was uncooperative.
“Our sweep continues to show that an overwhelming majority of gun retailers in Washington are doing the right thing and complying with the law,” Ferguson said in a statement. “In contrast, Gator’s Custom Guns intentionally built a retail stockpile that exceeds anything my office has seen since the ban went into effect. My office will continue to enforce this common-sense law.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in Cowlitz County Superior Court, seeks to force Gator’s Custom Guns to stop illegally stocking, advertising and selling high-capacity magazines and for the store’s remaining inventory to be destroyed or returned to distributors.
The suit also seeks civil penalties for violating the Consumer Protection Act which carries a maximum penalty of $7,500 every time the retailer sold or offered to sell a high-capacity magazine.
Gator’s Custom Guns told KOIN 6 News they have no comment on the litigation.
The high-capacity magazine ban went into effect July 1, 2022, and was introduced by Attorney General Ferguson in partnership with Sen. Marko Liias. The ban outlaws manufacturing, selling, distributing, or offering for sale magazines with 10 or more rounds. Violations of the ban also violate the Consumer Protection Act, Ferguson’s office says.
In December 2022, Ferguson’s office filed the first lawsuit to enforce the ban against Federal Way Discount Guns and its owner, Mohammed Reza Baghai, for illegally selling high-capacity magazines during the ban.
One month after the suit was filed, a King County judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the store from selling high-capacity magazines and defendants were held in contempt of court for intentionally violating the order, the attorney general’s office said.
In April, a King County superior court judge granted a partial summary judgment, stating Baghai and Federal Way Discount Guns violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act and ordered the defendant to pay the state’s attorney fees. According to Ferguson’s office, the court is still determining the amount of civil penalties the business will pay.
The state’s gun retailer sweep also led to $15,000 in penalties for WGS Guns, a Lakewood-based gun retailer for intentionally violating the law, Ferguson’s office said. AG investigators found the store illegally sold two high-capacity magazines about two months after the ban went into effect before complying with the law after the investigation launched.
Ferguson also filed a resolution requiring WGS Guns to remove high-capacity magazines from their website and to stop fulfilling online orders for the magazines.
Attorney General Ferguson advocated for gun reform beginning in September 2016 when he held a press conference with family members impacted by a mass shooting in Mukilteo where a 19-year-old with an assault weapon and a high-capacity magazine killed three people and injured a fourth, Ferguson’s office noted.
“Ferguson vowed to propose legislation to ban these deadly weapons until the reforms passed,” Ferguson’s office stated in a press release. Ferguson’s office noted that the United States Supreme Court has allowed appeals court decisions upholding the high-capacity bans to stand.
Similar to Washington, Oregon voters approved a high-capacity magazine ban under Measure 114 in November 2022. The measure requires safety training and background checks in order to obtain a gun permit and bans the sale, transfer, or import of gun magazines with 10 or more rounds.
Measure 114 includes exemptions for the magazine capacity ban for members of the military and law enforcement or if the magazine was owned prior to Measure 114’s passage.
After Measure 114 faced Second Amendment challenges in court, U.S. District Judge Karin Immergut ruled that banning large-capacity magazines and requiring a permit to purchase a gun is constitutional, as first reported by OPB.
Despite the ruling on the measure’s constitutionality, Measure 114 is still on hold in Oregon because of a separate legal challenge underway in Harney County. That case is slated to begin in September.