Federal Judge Strikes Down California’s Gun Magazine Ban
Article from Reason by Jacob Sullum.
On Friday evening, a federal judge in San Diego blocked enforcement of California’s ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, deeming it inconsistent with the Second Amendment right to keep arms for self-defense. U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez concluded that “California’s law prohibiting acquisition and possession of magazines able to hold any more than 10 rounds places a severe restriction on the core right of self-defense of the home such that it amounts to a destruction of the right and is unconstitutional under any level of scrutiny.” Benitez, who in 2017 issued a stay that prevented the law from taking effect, also agreed with the plaintiffs that the ban amounts to an unconstitutional taking of property without compensation.
In the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment applies to arms in common use for lawful purposes. Benitez notes that highly popular firearms owned by millions of Americans, such as the Glock 17 pistol, the Ruger 10/22 rifle, and the AR-15 rifle, come equipped with magazines that exceed California’s arbitrary limit, which was originally imposed in 2000 and extended to pre-existing hardware by a 2016 ballot initiative. “Millions of ammunition magazines able to hold more than 10 rounds are in common use by law-abiding responsible citizens for lawful uses like self-defense,” Benitez writes. “This is enough to decide that a magazine able to hold more than 10 rounds passes the Heller test and is protected by the Second Amendment.”
While Benitez thinks that is the appropriate test, he also concludes that California’s ban on “large capacity magazines” (LCMs) fails “strict scrutiny,” which requires the government to prove that the law is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest, and even “intermediate scrutiny,” which requires that the law be substantially related to an important state interest. The LCM ban “burdens the core of the Second Amendment by criminalizing the acquisition and possession of these magazines that are commonly held by law-abiding citizens for defense of self, home, and state,” he writes. “It also fails the strict scrutiny test because the statute is not narrowly tailored—it is not tailored at all. Even under the more forgiving test of intermediate scrutiny, the statute fails because it is not a reasonable fit.”
Benitez emphasizes that the avowed aim of the LCM ban—reducing the lethality of mass shootings—is related to a small subset of “extremely rare” crimes: cases where the need to switch magazines creates a “critical pause” during which the perpetrator might be overpowered or his victims might escape. Defensive uses of guns are far more common, and at the beginning of his ruling Benitez describes several cases in which having more than 10 rounds could have made a critical difference. “From the perspective of a victim trying to defend her home and family,” he says, “the time required to re-load a pistol after the tenth shot might be called a ‘lethal pause,’ as it typically takes a victim much longer to re-load (if they can do it at all) than a perpetrator planning an attack. In other words, the re-loading ‘pause’ the State seeks in hopes of stopping a mass shooter also tends to create an even more dangerous time for every victim who must try to defend herself with a small-capacity magazine.”
Read the entire article at Reason.
Image Credit: By KAZ Vorpal (Flickr: Declaration of Independence, with Firearm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons