Appeals Court Upholds California’s High-Capacity Magazine Ban

By City News Service
City News Service
City News Service
November 30, 2021 Updated: November 30, 2021

SAN DIEGO—A federal appeals court upheld on Nov. 30 California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, which a San Diego federal judge previously overturned and ruled as unconstitutional.

A divided Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled—by a 7-4 margin—that California’s ban “on legal possession of large-capacity magazines reasonably supported California’s effort to reduce the devastating damage wrought by mass shootings.”

The ban outlaws magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez in San Diego previously blocked the ban, ruling that the law violated the Second Amendment rights of gun owners and that its passage was an overreaction to high-profile gun crimes.

Benitez issued his ruling in favor of several San Diego County gun owners who argued the ban burdened lawful gun owners and did little to reduce violence.

Benitez’s decision was upheld by a three-judge 9th Circuit panel last summer, prompting the “en banc” review of the case by the full court at the request of the California Attorney General’s Office.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta applauded the ruling and said the decision was “a victory for public safety in California.”

He said gun violence is “an epidemic in this country,” and the ban is a “commonsense [way] to prevent this violence, including desvastating mass shootings. … Our laws keep Californians safe while allowing law-abiding gun owners to exercise their constitutional rights.”

A plaintiff in the original lawsuit, Chuck Michel, who is the president of California Rifle & Pistol Association, said the organization would appeal the ruling.

“We are truly disappointed that the Ninth Circuit en banc panel decided to go against the solid constitutional reasoning of other judges to strike down this win for gun owners,” who “deserve to have someone fighting for them and their rights. The Second Amendment is a fundamental right, and it is time that courts stop treating that right like a second-class gift from government,” Michel said.

Judge Susan P. Graber, who authored the majority opinion, wrote the law “is a reasonable fit for the important government interest of reducing gun violence.”

According to Graber, large-capacity magazines have been used in about 75 percent of gun killings with 10 or more deaths and in all cases with more than 20 deaths over the past 50 years.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Patrick Bumatay, joined by Judges Sandra Ikuta and Ryan Nelson, wrote that the ban infringes on Californians’ Second Amendment rights and, if applied nationwide, “it would require confiscating half of all existing firearms magazines in this country.”

The dissent continued, “While we acknowledge that California asserts a public safety interest, we cannot bend the law to acquiesce to a policy that contravenes the clear decision made by the American people when they ratified the Second Amendment.”