The fight over California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines shows a country divided

(Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

The fight over California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines shows a country divided

Homepage News, California Politics

Kevin Rector

Dec. 31, 2023

At the end of last month,


A coalition of 19 US states and the District of Columbia came together to support California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

In a brief filed with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where a challenge to the California law is being considered, the coalition argued that California’s ban is fully compliant with the 2nd Amendment and should be upheld as lawful.

On Thursday evening, 25 other states responded with their own letter, saying the exact opposite. They said California’s ammunition ban threatened the Second Amendment and individual gun owners’ right to self-defense, and should be struck down as unconstitutional.

The dueling legal briefs showed in clear terms what most Americans already understand after years of robust gun debates and an endless barrage of mass shootings: This is a country deeply divided over gun policy.

9th Circuit continues to rule against California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines

This is a reflection of where the country is now, says Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA who focuses on the Second Amendment. It really highlights a political divide.

The letter also showed how differently attorneys general and other legal leaders in red and blue states are interpreting the sweeping new limits the U.S. Supreme Court placed on gun laws nationwide last year, Winkler said, while liberal leaders saw enough leeway for state gun restrictions to survive, and their conservative counterparts see far less.

The case surrounding California’s ban on high-capacity magazines is hardly the only one in which this division manifests itself. Gun laws are being challenged across the country following the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn case. vs. Bruen, and states are continually weighing which of these cases to consider.

In Bruen, the Supreme Court rejected a longstanding pillar of Second Amendment law that stated that governments may impose certain firearms restrictions if they have a compelling government interest to do so. Instead, the justices decided, most restrictions on firearms are legitimate only if they are deeply rooted in American history or analogous to some other historical rule.

The ruling led to a mountain of legal challenges to gun laws across the country, including in California.

As a result, California’s ban on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons were both struck down as unconstitutional in recent months by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego.

The state has appealed both rulings, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed them from taking effect while it considers the appeals.

When a law is challenged in court, outside parties with a vested interest in the outcome of the decision sometimes file their own briefs in support of or in opposition to the law in question.

That’s what happened to the two state coalitions in the case over California’s high-capacity magazine ban, because the appeals court’s decision could also impact gun laws in other states.

A federal judge has once again overturned California’s ban on high-capacity gun magazines

In the filing in support of the California ban were Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island , Vermont, Washington State and Wisconsin.

These states argued that they have the ability under the Constitution to impose restrictions on particularly dangerous weapons and accessories while leaving citizens other options for self-defense; that high-capacity ammunition magazines are not weapons of general use under the Second Amendment; and that California law is consistent with this country’s long historical tradition of regulating particularly dangerous weapons and accessories.

We work every day to promote the health, well-being and safety of our residents, including by taking steps to curb the threat of mass shootings and other forms of gun violence that harm our residents and prevent their exercise of constitutionally protected hinder freedoms, according to the states. that such efforts are within their rights under the Constitution.

Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Andrea Joy Campbell, one of the leaders of the coalition supporting California’s ban, said in a statement that such measures save lives and protect the public from gun violence.

The filing in opposition to the California ammunition ban was joined by Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Those states argued that California’s ban threatened the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and that it clearly violated the Bruen decision, in part because such bans are not part of the nation’s history and tradition on the issue of firearms regulations. They said such magazines are often possessed and used for self-defense and clearly fall within the scope of the Second Amendment.

Montana Atty. Gen. Austin Knudsen, one of the leaders of that coalition, said in a statement that Judge Benitez was correct in concluding that the California law unconstitutionally restricts the fundamental right to possess and carry ordinary firearm magazines normally used for lawful purposes. possession, and that his decision to overturn the law must be upheld by the court of appeal.

It is unknown when the 9th Circuit will rule on the case. The decision can be appealed again to the Supreme Court.

Winkler of UCLA said the California case is a symbol of where we are now in the gun debate, namely how incredibly unsettled gun law is after the Bruen ruling.

Bruen has updated things, but many questions remain open and the ban on high-capacity magazines is one of them, he said.

Gov. When Gavin Newsom’s office was asked about the other states opposing California’s high-capacity magazine ban this week, it pointed to his statement denouncing Benitez’s ruling in September upholding the law was destroyed.

This is politics, Newsom said at the time, pure and simple.


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