California Magazine Ban Heads Back to Court

posted on March 1, 2021

The long-running saga of the court case involving California’s on-again, off-again magazine ban has taken another twist.

Many America’s 1st Freedom readers likely remember that last August, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in Duncan v. Becerra that the restriction on firearms magazines holding more than 10 rounds violated the Second Amendment.

At the time, the court wrote: “The record shows that such magazines are overwhelmingly owned and used for lawful purposes. This is the antithesis of unusual. That LCMs (large-capacity magazines) are commonly used today for lawful purposes ends the inquiry… .”

Of course, California’s attorney general quickly appealed the ruling, bringing us to present-day action. Last Thursday, the Ninth Circuit granted en banc review of the lawsuit, which vacates the earlier ruling and sends the case before an 11-member panel for consideration.

While the Ninth Circuit has a reputation as being one of the most anti-gun federal courts in the nation, former President Donald Trump’s valiant efforts to replace hundreds of federal judges during his four-year term means the court may have a better chance at actually voting in support of freedom. During his presidency, Trump appointed more than 200 federal judges, including 10 to the Ninth Circuit. Of the current judges on the court, about half were appointed by Republicans and half by Democrats—a ratio that was greatly changed over Trump’s presidency.

Ideologies aside, it should be hard for many of the judges to argue against Ninth Circuit Judge Kenneth Lee’s reasoned explanation articulating why the ban should be shelved on constitutional grounds.

“Even well-intentioned laws must pass constitutional muster,” Lee wrote. “California’s near-categorical ban of LCMs 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. California’s law imposes a substantial burden on this right to self-defense.”

In his opinion, Judge Lee also addressed the overwhelming purview of the magazine ban this way: “Its scope is so sweeping that half of all magazines in America are now unlawful to own in California. Even law-abiding citizens, regardless of their training and track record, must alter or turn over to the state any LCMs that they may have legally owned for years—or face up to a year in jail.”

Duncan v. Becerra centers around a California law banning manufacture, importation, sale, transfer and receipt of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. As most gun owners know, many popular firearms come standard with such magazines, making the term “standard-capacity” magazines a much better description.

More than just a California issue, the decision made by this court will be important on a national level. President Joe Biden has recently called for Congress to quickly get to work passing gun-control legislation, including a magazine ban.

Regardless of what the court decides, the lawsuit could eventually find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where, if past records are a good indication, pro-gun justices outnumber those who are unfriendly to the Second Amendment. It’s anybody’s guess, however, whether the high Court would take the case given its recent reluctance to hear cases involving Second Amendment issues.


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