California’s Ban on Gun Magazines Found Unconstitutional

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posted on August 18, 2020
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A three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s previous ruling that a California state ban on standard-capacity magazines is unconstitutional and in violation of the Second Amendment.

In Duncan v. Becerra, U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez ruled in March, 2019, that California’s ban on magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds violated the Second Amendment. This decision was appealed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and has now been reviewed by a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel of judges.

Judge Kenneth K. Lee, joined by Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, wrote in the panel’s decision to uphold Benitez’s ruling that California’s categorical ban of so-called “large-capacity” magazines “strikes at the core of the Second Amendment—the right to armed self-defense. Armed self-defense is a fundamental right rooted in tradition and the text of the Second Amendment. Indeed, from pre-colonial times to today’s post-modern era, the right to defend hearth and home has remained paramount.”

Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn wrote in a dissenting opinion that she would reverse the district court’s decision.

“The ruling is a gratifying one by the Ninth Circuit, a court that, in past rulings, has been not especially protective of the Second Amendment,” wrote the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

Previously, gun magazines that held more than 10 rounds were banned in California, starting in 2000; however, a grandfather clause existed that allowed those who lawfully purchased such a magazine before the law’s enactment to keep them. This was until Californians voted to pass Proposition 63 in 2016, which made them completely illegal.

Though this is undoubtedly a win for the Second Amendment in California, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for firearms manufacturers, noted that “members of the industry should continue to refrain from selling or shipping into California [these magazines] until after the appeal proceeding is concluded or the stay is modified or lifted.” The judicial stay, granted in 2019, allows the provisions of the 2000 law that imposed restrictions on the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer, and receipt of magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds to remain in effect “pending final resolution of the appeal from the Judgment.”

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