FEDERAL COURT STRIKES DOWN CALIFORNIA BAN ON STANDARD CAPACITY MAGAZINES; APPEAL LIKELY
In a lengthy decision entered on March 29, 2019 in the case of Duncan v. Becerra, a copy of which can be found here, Judge Benitez of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California held that California’s ban on the possession of magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds violates the Second Amendment.
In his decision, Judge Benitez began by referencing several instances in which citizens had lawfully used firearms for self-defense, and ran out of ammunition because of the ten round capacity limit and the difficulty of having a spare magazine or second firearm. He held that magazines are considered to be arms protected by the Second Amendment and that magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds are in common use for lawful purposes. Judge Benitez noted that among the most popular firearms in the United States are the Glock 17 pistol and AR-15 type rifles, which have standard magazine capacities of seventeen and thirty rounds, respectively. The decision traced laws restricting the ammunition capacity of firearms, referring to firearms that hold more than ten rounds that dated back to before the Revolutionary War. The court further noted that there is no historic acceptance of magazine capacity restrictions, and that the first law in the United States restricting the capacity of detachable magazines was not passed until 1990, when New Jersey imposed a fifteen round limit. In addition, as of today, federal law and the laws of forty-one of the fifty states do not limit the capacity of magazines.
Based on the above findings, Judge Benitez held that California’s ban on the possession of magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds places a severe restriction on the core Second Amendment right of self-defense of the home, and is unconstitutional under any level of scrutiny applicable to Second Amendment rights, i.e., strict scrutiny or intermediate scrutiny.
The case had begun as a challenge to Proposition 63, which made the continued possession of magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds that had been grandfathered under the 2000 ban illegal, and required that they be disposed of before July 2017. Judge Benitez had earlier issued an injunction staying the requirement to dispose of grandfathered magazines with a more than ten round capacity. His March 29, 2019 decision, however, declares California Penal Law § 32310 to be unconstitutional in its entirety. This means that the court has declared California’ ban on the possession of any magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds to be unconstitutional, not just those magazines that had been grandfathered under the 2000 ban.
Although Judge Benitez issued an injunction prohibiting the continued enforcement of California’s ban on the possession (as well as the manufacture and sale) of magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds, his decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In addition, the injunction against enforcement of the ban (except as it applies to magazines that had been grandfathered under the 2000 ban) may be stayed pending appeal. Therefore, magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds should not yet be shipped to, or sold in, California. Renzulli Law Firm will continue to keep you apprised of the status of the California Penal Code § 32310 and the Duncan v. Becerra case. For additional information on California’s ban on standard capacity magazines, please contact John Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.