SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday threw out California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s protection of the right to bear firearms.
“Even well-intentioned laws must pass constitutional muster,” appellate Judge Kenneth Lee wrote for the panel’s majority. California’s ban on magazines holding more than 10 bullets “strikes at the core of the Second Amendment — the right to armed self-defense.”
He noted that California passed the law “in the wake of heart-wrenching and highly publicized mass shootings,” but said that isn’t enough to justify a ban whose scope “is so sweeping that half of all magazines in America are now unlawful to own in California.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office said it is reviewing the decision and he “remains committed to using every tool possible to defend California’s gun safety laws and keep our communities safe.”
Gun owners cannot immediately buy high-capacity magazines because a stay issued by the lower court judge remains in place.
But Becerra did not say whether the state would seek a further delay of Friday’s ruling to prevent an immediate buying flurry if the lower court judge ends that restriction. Gun groups estimated that more than a million high-capacity ammunition magazines may have flooded into California during a one-week window before the judge stayed his ruling three years ago.
Becerra also did not say if he would ask a larger 11-judge appellate panel to reconsider the ruling by the three judges, or if he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who championed the magazine ban when he was lieutenant governor, defended the law as a vital gun violence prevention measure.
“I think it was sound, I think it was right, and … the overwhelming majority of Californians agreed when they supported a ballot initiative that we put forth,” he said Friday.
California Rifle & Pistol Association attorney Chuck Michel called Friday’s decision “a huge victory” for gun owners “and the right to choose to own a firearm to defend your family,” while a group that favors firearms restrictions called it “dangerous” and expects it will be overturned.
The ruling has national implications because other states have similar restrictions, though it immediately applies only to Western states under the appeals court’s jurisdiction.
NRA SUIT TOSSED
Separately, in New York, a federal judge threw out a National Rifle Association lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo for refusing to label gun shops as essential businesses allowed to stay open during the coronavirus lockdown he ordered in March.
U.S. District Judge Mae D’Agostino in Albany, N.Y., ruled Friday that the NRA didn’t have legal standing to sue the state on behalf of its members. The judge also denied the organization’s request to once again amend its complaint to try to show it had been injured by Cuomo’s actions because its staff had to answer phone calls about the closure of gun shops in the state.
“The proposed second amended complaint is completely devoid of any allegation detailing how the general support that was purportedly provided by Plaintiff, which consisted of fielding phone calls and providing advice to its members, was inconsistent with Plaintiff’s ordinary operations of advocating its members’ rights,” wrote D’Agostino, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama.
The setback for the NRA comes days after New York Attorney General Letitia James sued to dissolve the nonprofit, which is chartered in the state. James accused the NRA and four current and former top officials of rampant financial misconduct that is alleged to have violated state rules governing the management of charities.
Information for this article was contributed by Don Thompson of The Associated Press; and by Erik Larson of Bloomberg News.
FILE – In this Tuesday, June 27, 2017, file photo, a semi-automatic hand gun is displayed with a 10 shot magazine, left, and a 15 shot magazine, right, at a gun store in Elk Grove, Calif. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. The panel’s majority ruled Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, that the law banning magazines holding more than 10 bullets violates the constitutional right to bear firearms. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)