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9th Circuit Court Rules California’s High-Capacity Magazine Ban Is Unconstitutional

Sacramento, CA – A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out California’s ban on high-capacity gun magazines on Friday and said the state law violated the Second Amendment.

The ruling will ultimately impact other states that have passed similar magazine restrictions but it applies immediately to the states under the 9th Circuit’s jurisdiction which makes up the western United States, the Associated Press reported.

The appeals court panel’s ruling upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez in April of 2019 that said the high-capacity magazine ban “hits at the center of the Second Amendment and its burden is severe,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In his ruling, Benitez cited three home invasions in which women fought back and would have been more effective against their attackers if they had higher-capacity gun magazines, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The judge said mass shootings were tragic but were far less common than robberies, aggravated assaults and homicides in homes.

Benitez said the far more common crimes sometimes require more firepower because “unless a law-abiding individual has a firearm for his or her own defense, the police typically arrive after it is too late.

The size limit (on magazines) directly impairs one’s ability to defend one’s self,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The appellate judge who wrote the majority opinion for the 9th Circuit echoed Benitez’s earlier sentiments, the Associated Press reported.

“Even well-intentioned laws must pass constitutional muster,” Judge Kenneth Lee wrote.

Lee said that California’s ban on magazines that hold more than 10 bullets “strikes at the core of the Second Amendment — the right to armed self-defense,” according to the Associated Press.

He said the decision to ban the larger magazines came “in the wake of heart-wrenching and highly publicized mass shootings,” but the scope of the law was “so sweeping that half of all magazines in America are now unlawful to own in California.”

Despite the court’s ruling, a stay issued by a lower court judge that prohibited the purchase of high-capacity magazines remained in place for the time being, the Associated Press reported.

Gun groups said that gun owners legally purchased about one million of the larger magazines during the one-week window between the federal judge’s earlier ruling and the stay issued by the lower court pending appeal.

California Attorney General Xavier Bercerra said he was reviewing the appellate court’s decision, the Associated Press reported.

Bercerra hasn’t said if he planned to appeal to the larger 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit or if he would appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The attorney general also hasn’t declared whether he intended to ask the judge to extend the stay banning the purchase of the magazines, the Associated Press reported.

Gun rights groups have wanted the U.S. Supreme Court to take up one of the high-capacity magazine cases while there is a more conservative majority on the bench.

However, the nation’s highest court refused to hear recent challenges to state and local gun control laws, including one that involved Massachusetts’ ban on high-capacity magazines, the Associated Press reported.

“The Supreme Court seems inclined to do away with the complicated subjective tests that many courts have wrongly applied in Second Amendment cases, in favor of a clearer more objective ‘originalist’ approach that considers the text, history and tradition of a law to determine what infringements might be tolerated,” California Rifle & Pistol Association attorney Chuck Michel said in an email.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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