California Ban on Magazines Holding 10 or More Bullets Struck Down by Appeals Court Panel
Do you agree with the 9th Circuit striking down California’s ban on magazines holding 10 or more rounds?
by Causes | 8.15.20
What’s the story?
- The state of California’s ban on firearm magazines with 10 or more rounds was struck down as a violation of the Second Amendment in a ruling issued on Friday by a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- The decision upheld the ruling of a district court, and found that California’s ban on “large capacity magazines” (LCMs) holding 10 or more bullets “strikes at the core of the Second Amendment ― the right to armed self-defense.” California law has banned the sale of LCMs since 2000.
- The state may appeal the decision to either an en banc 11 judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or to the U.S. Supreme Court. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) hasn’t indicated which course of action his office will pursue, and his office issued a statement that, “The Attorney General remains committed to using every tool possible to defend California’s gun safety laws and keep our communities safe.”
What did the judges say?
- Judge Kenneth Lee, who was confirmed to the Ninth Circuit last year after being nominated by President Donald Trump, wrote the majority opinion in the 2-1 decision, in which he was joined by Judge Consuelo Callahan. The opinion read in part:
“The state of California has latitude in enacting laws to curb the scourge of gun violence, and has done so by imposing waiting periods and many other limitations. But the Second Amendment limits the state’s ability to second guess a citizen’s choice of arms if it imposes a substantial burden on her right to self-defense. Many Californians may find solace in the security of a handgun equipped with an LCM: those who live in rural areas where the local sheriff may be miles away, law-abiding citizens trapped in high crime areas, communities that distrust or depend less on law enforcement, and many more who rely on their firearms to protect themselves and their families. California’s almost blanket ban on LCMs goes too far in substantially burdening the people’s right to self-defense.”
- Judge Lee’s opinion also cited a study mentioned in a February 2017 Senate floor speech by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), the former California attorney general and the presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee, to note that people who don’t trust the police may have to rely more on their self-defense:
“Further, some people, especially in communities of color, do not trust law enforcement and are less likely ― over 40% less likely, according to one study ― to call 911 even during emergencies. These citizens may rely more on self-defense than the “average” person in a home invasion or some other emergency.
- The dissent was written by Judge Barbara Lynn, a visiting federal judge who ordinarily serves as the chief judge of the Northern District of Texas. It read in part:
“California was not the first city or state to ban the possession of large capacity magazines (“LCMs”), and this panel is not the first (even within this Circuit) to address the constitutionality of such bans. A panel of this Court previously affirmed a district court’s refusal to preliminarily enjoin the City of Sunnyvale’s ban on LCMs, and six of our sister Circuits have held that various LCM restrictions are constitutional. Thus, this panel is not writing on a blank slate. I would reach the same result as the Fyock panel and our sister Circuits and hold that California’s ban on LCMs does not violate the Second Amendment.”
What’s next for the case?
- If the case is heard before an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 11 judges will be selected from the 29 judge court.
- The outcome may hinge on which judges end up on the en banc panel, given that the Ninth Circuit has 16 judges appointed by Democratic presidents versus 13 judges appointed by Republican presidents (including 10 appointed by President Trump).
- If the case reaches the Supreme Court either after a near-term appeal by Attorney General Becerra or after an en banc hearing, justices will decide whether to hear the case.
- If the case is heard by the Supreme Court, it’s unclear how the justices would rule because they haven’t heard a case involving large capacity magazines. In 2014, then-Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy declined to hear an appeal of a LCM ban enacted by Sunnyvale, California.
What does the Supreme Court say about gun rights?
- Like other constitutional rights, the right to bear arms has been interpreted by the Supreme Court in light of policies advanced by governments that seek to curtail that right. It has issued three significant decisions on the matter in recent decades.
- Heller v. District of Columbia (2008): The Court held that individuals have the right to own a firearm for lawful purposes such as self-defense. In doing so, it struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns and its mandate that rifles and shotguns either be kept unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock as unconstitutional.
- McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010): The Court held that the Second Amendment’s protections extend to state policies through the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause and apply to cities and states in the same manner Heller applied to D.C. The case concerned a similar handgun ban & restrictions on rifles & shotguns imposed by the city of Chicago, which were found to be unconstitutional.
- Caetano v. Massachusetts (2016): The Court unanimously held that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess "all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding, and that this Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States." It struck down a ban on stun guns enacted by the state of Massachusetts.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Smederevac)
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