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Appeals court rules CA high-capacity magazine ban unconstitutional

An AR-15 build, magazines and Federal ammunition. (docmonstereyes/Flickr)
August 14, 2020

A panel of three federal judges ruled Friday that California’s ban on gun magazines capable of holding over 10 rounds is unconstitutional.

The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declared the California law violates the constitutional right to bear arms, codified under the 2nd Amendment, the Associated Press reported.

Writing the majority opinion on the case, appellate Judge Kenneth Lee said “Even well-intentioned laws must pass constitutional muster” and said the state’s magazine capacity limit “strikes at the core of the Second Amendment — the right to armed self-defense.”

While the decision is favorable to gun owners wishing to purchase magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds, the court’s decision does not overturn a stay put in place by a lower court, preventing purchases of such magazines while the legal cases continue.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office told the AP they would fight to keep the state’s magazine capacity laws despite the court’s ruling. It is not clear if Becerra will ask a larger 11-judge panel on the court to reconsider the case, or if he would instead appeal directly to the Supreme Court for a ruling.

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The magazine limit was implemented in California under a 2016 ballot initiative, Proposition 63.

Gov. Gavin Newsom reacted to the decision Friday, telling the AP, “I think [the magazine ban] was sound, I think it was right, and … the overwhelming majority of Californians agreed when they supported a ballot initiative that we put forth.”

Newsom was a proponent of the magazine ban as then-lieutenant governor.

California Rifle & Pistol Association attorney Chuck Michel, who also spoke with the AP, called Friday’s decision “a huge victory” for gun owners “and the right to choose to own a firearm to defend your family.”

The National Rifle Association (NRA) also reacted to the news, tweeting, “BREAKING NEWS: @NRA scores a HUGE win in California today. The 9th Circuit, led by a Trump-appointed judge, rules that ban on magazines with more than 10 rounds is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. This case will have repercussions nationwide.”

The U.S. Supreme Court itself has been reluctant to take up second amendment cases in recent years. In April, the high court threw out a case dealing with a New York City rule restricting gun owners’ abilities to transport their firearms. The case would have been the first gun case for the court in 10 years.