California Court Blocks Enforcement of Recently-Enacted Magazine Ban

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Second Amendment advocates are cheering a federal court’s opinion blocking enforcement of California’s draconian magazine ban. Read more…

judge in California

Source: NRA ILA

The battle to secure Second Amendment rights is ever-evolving. Last Monday, gun owners were dealt a disappointing blow with the Supreme Court’s refusal to review the legal scheme that empowers California counties to effectively ban the bearing of arms. Yet by Thursday, Second Amendment advocates were cheering a federal court’s opinion blocking enforcement of California’s draconian magazine ban. That opinion, in Duncan v. Becerra, shows what’s possible when a federal judge treats the right to keep and bear arms with the respect deserved by all provisions within the Bill of Rights.

The case is challenging the ban enacted last fall by Proposition 63 on so-called “large capacity magazines” (i.e., most ammunition feeding devices “with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds”). California’s law went beyond similar laws in other antigun states by prohibiting not only the manufacturing, sale, or importation of such magazines but also their possession, including by those who had lawfully obtained them before the ban’s effective date of July 1. As Judge Roger T. Benitez put it in his order, “On July 1, 2017, any previously law-abiding person in California who still possesses a firearm magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds will begin their new life of crime.”

Thanks to the injunction issued by Judge Benitez, that is no longer the case. His order prevents enforcement of the ban on possession and the requirement that those in possession rid themselves of their magazines, pending further proceedings in the case. The order left intact, however, the bans on manufacturing, sale, or import.

Judge Benitez held that standard capacity magazines like those affected by the ban are “arms” within the meaning of the Second Amendment. He further ruled that the law burdens the “core” Second Amendment right of possessing an arm commonly held by law-abiding citizens for defense of home, self, and state. The burden, he wrote, was “more than slight” and the ban was neither presumptively legal nor of long-standing pedigree. And even if the ban were subject to the more forgiving brand of “intermediate scrutiny” under which many gun control laws have been upheld, he found it would not be a reasonable fit with the state’s asserted purpose of public safety because it is squarely aimed at law-abiding persons.

Judge Benitez had some unusually sharp characterizations of California’s gun control laws. “The language used, the internally referenced provisions, the interplay among them, and the plethora of other gun regulations, have made the State’s magazine laws difficult to understand for all but the most learned experts,” he stated. “Too much complexity fails to give fair notice and violates due process,” he continued, noting that even the attorney for the State of California could not describe all of the magazine ban’s intricacies during the hearing. “Who could blame her?” he asked rhetorically. “The California matrix of gun control laws is among the harshest in the nation and are filled with criminal law traps for people of common intelligence who desire to obey the law.”

Judge Benitez also assailed the creeping incrementalism that retroactively seeks to punish facially harmless behavior by upstanding people who are acting in good faith.

“Constitutional rights would become meaningless if states could obliterate them by enacting incrementally more burdensome restrictions while arguing that a reviewing court must evaluate each restriction by itself when determining constitutionality,” he wrote. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was exactly the complaint that the NRA and others had raised with the Ninth Circuit’s opinion the Supreme Court had earlier in the week declined to review. By focusing narrowly on the question of whether the Second Amendment was specifically meant to protect concealed carry, the Ninth Circuit had ignored the fact that California has foreclosed every option to lawfully bear arms for self-defense in public.
Judge Benitez framed the questions in Duncan case as whether a law-abiding, responsible citizen has “a right to defend his home from criminals using whatever common magazine size he or she judges best suits the situation” and “to keep and bear a common magazine useful for service in a militia.” He opined that “a final decision on the merits is likely to answer both questions ‘yes’… .“

Last Thursday’s opinion represents a very encouraging development but unfortunately is not the last word in the case. It remains to be seen if the state will appeal the injunction, and the court must still resolve the underlying claims. Once that happens, further appeals are likely to follow.

Overall, however, the week’s events were a reminder of the critical role that federal judges play in the freedoms that Americans enjoy (or don’t enjoy). And having a president who respects the Constitution when appointing those judges is a safeguard that no liberty-loving American can overestimate.

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8 thoughts on “California Court Blocks Enforcement of Recently-Enacted Magazine Ban”

  1. The first time a sheriff decided that people in “his” town could not carry firearms, was the first time the second amendment was infringed upon. Every law that requires you to ask permission, or tells you where or how or what kind of gun you may or may not have, or where you can or can’t carry it, is an infringement on your right to keep and bear arms. They are ALL unconstitutional.
    2nd Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
    Note that this is about ARMS, not just firearms. Bows and arrows, knives, swords, flails, et al, are all arms and owning and carrying should be protected against infringement under the second amendment. It also doesn’t say, “shall not be infringed as long as you get permission from the government.”

  2. “show a specific, documented need for self-defense—for example, by proving that they had been attacked”

    Duh, isn’t it just a bit to late by that time? Some of these lawmakers need to be impeached and removed from office for violating their oaths of office. None of these laws are constitutional. Getting a permit is asking permission. If you have to ask permission your right has been infringed. Getting told how you can carry or where you can carry or what you can carry all infringes on your right to keep and BEAR ARMS.

    1. I wish people would stand up for any of their rights. Seems that those that live in Ca. leave it up to others and just go on their merry way. C.B. is 100% correct the Ca. Government NEEDS to be Recalled or Impeached.

      1. The pro-gun rights organizations in California are very active and supported by independent citizens. However, the state has had a huge influx of people over the past 30 years and sad to say most of them are liberal. It’s an uphill fight. California gun owners association, Cal-Guns and the NRA are fighting battles every day to protect the rights of citizens.

  3. A “California” court did NOT block the law, a FEDERAL court did. Pro-gun enthusiasts are completely ignorant of the system of government put into place, and keep running to the very entity that has taken away their pre-existing rights for decades, all the while shouting, “Muh Second Amendment Rights!” Short-sided and very dumb.

    1. The Federal court did not block the law. A judge appointed to the Federal Court did. He lives in California.

    2. Perhaps some are ignorant but that is true of every group of people. Most of the pro-gun enthusiasts I’ve met are fairly cognizant of how things in government work. It does seem odd though that so many have been kicked in the teeth by the republican party and yet they keep voting for them. My state of Arizona is a prime example. They keep re-electing Senator McCain because he’s a “war hero”. No, he wasn’t. He was a pow and he did what every pow is supposed to do and that’s resist the enemy as much as you can. He didn’t storm any beachheads, or machine gun nexts, he didn’t save a bunch of lives. He was a pow just like so many others. He’s also a far left progressive and should in no way be a member of the republican party. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are two who should be fired by their constituents in the very next election. The republicans passed a repeal bill of O-care 68 times when O was still president, knowing he’d veto it if it got passed through the senate. Now that they have all three branches of government they refuse to even consider it. Wake up people. Join the Constitution Party. http://www.constitutionparty.com
      Oh and the main reason I replied to your comment? Because I think you meant short sighted, not short sided. Yes?

  4. I’m sorry folks. California is a beautiful state and I’ve met some of the nicest people there and seen beautiful forests and huge vineyards, listened to some of the finest blues rock at pubs and eaten wonderful foods…. but life is short and I could never live in such a restrictive state run by a lunatic fringe.
    Just pack up and move. There are cheaper homes in adjoining state’s jobs everywhere if you really look. I currently live in Alaska, a very firearms friendly state but also like Arizona which I believe is a semi-auto firearms, standard 30 round capacity and above mags, suppressor, SBR and select fire friendly state…

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