Nov 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Appeals court upholds California's ban on high-capacity magazines

Photo of two arms holding a high-capacity magazine for an AR-15 rifle at a gun store
A salesperson holds a high-capacity magazine for an AR-15 rifle at a store in Orem, Utah. Photo: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld California's ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines in a case that could reach the Supreme Court.

Why it matters: Gun rights groups have pushed to get firearms cases before the nation's high court, where conservative justices now hold a 6-3 majority, and will now ask the Supreme Court to take up the case, according to AP.

Details: The law bars magazines that hold more than 10 or more bullets. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) backed the ballot initiative when he was still lieutenant governor.

  • A three-judge 9th Circuit panel last year agreed with a lower court judge that the ban violates the Second Amendment, but the appeals court reversed the ruling on Tuesday in a 7-4 en banc decision.

What they're saying: "The statute outlaws no weapon, but only limits the size of the magazine that may be used with firearms," the majority said in an opinion by Judge Susan P. Graber.

  • "[T]he record demonstrates (a) that the limitation interferes only minimally with the core right of self-defense, as there is no evidence that anyone ever has been unable to defend his or her home and family due to the lack of a large-capacity magazine; and (b) that the limitation saves lives."
  • "Accordingly, the ban on legal possession of large-capacity magazines reasonably supported California’s effort to reduce the devastating damage wrought by mass shootings," Graber added.

The other side: "Large-capacity magazines are bearable arms that are commonly owned for lawful purposes, and not subject to longstanding regulatory measures," three judges wrote in the dissent. "This is not a close question."

What to watch: The plaintiffs are planning to appeal the ruling, attorney C.D. Michel told Politico.

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