On September 22, 2023, District Judge Benitez of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California issued a decision finding California’s “large-capacity” magazine ban unconstitutional. California’s large-capacity magazine ban, codified at California Penal Code § 32310, has been the subject of litigation since 2017. It was initially prevented from going into effect in 2017 by Judge Benitez and, in 2019, the entire statute was found to be unconstitutional at the trial court level. However, this decision was ultimately reversed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2022, the United States Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s reversal based on New York Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen, 142 S. Ct. 2111 (2022). The appeals court then sent the case back to the Southern District of California for further proceedings consistent with Bruen.
Judge Benitez’s opinion begins with recognition of the “long tradition of widespread lawful gun ownership . . .” The opinion refers to “large-capacity” magazines as “common firearm magazines typically possessed for lawful purposes.” In applying the Bruen test, the Court found there has never been an American tradition of limiting magazine capacity or imposing a ten-round limit, and thus, § 32310 is arbitrary, capricious, and extreme. To demonstrate this point, the court highlighted the fact that, among the states that impose magazine limits, these limits vary significantly, which shows the arbitrary nature of “high-capacity” magazine bans. In arguing for California’s ten round magazine capacity limit, the State of California argued that defenders fire an average of 2.2 shots in cases of confrontation. In response, the Court pointed out that the Attorney General did not provide any police reports to the Court or his own expert. Further, the Attorney General’s expert did not disclose her data, her studies were not able to be replicated, and the formula used to select the news stories for the study was deemed “incomprehensible.” The Court also found that a vast majority of Americans that own these magazines use them for self-defense.
The Court evaluated and refuted each significant point argued by the State of California and reached the ultimate conclusion that it could find no historical support for the State’s ban on “large-capacity” magazines. As such, the State of California is currently prohibited from enforcing § 32310. However, before you start shipping or selling magazines to California that have a capacity exceeding 10 rounds, the California Attorney General filed a notice of appeal and will likely seek a stay until the appeal is concluded.
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor the status of § 32310 and other firearm related statutes around the country. If you have any questions concerning firearms related litigation, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.