AR-15 assault rifle with magazines
An AR-15 assault rifle with magazines of different capacities. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A federal appeals court threw out California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines Friday, upholding a San Diego federal judge’s ruling that the law was unconstitutional.

The order from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds violates the Second Amendment.

In the majority opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lee wrote that the law’s “sweeping scope and breathtaking breadth” is a substantial burden on Second Amendment rights, as magazines holding more than 10 rounds account for nearly half of the nation’s magazines and are largely used for lawful purposes.

“We understand the purpose in passing this law,” the opinion reads. “But even the laudable goal of reducing gun violence must comply with the constitution. California’s near-categorical ban of LCMs infringes on the fundamental right to self-defense. It criminalizes the possession of half of all magazines in America today. It makes unlawful magazines that are commonly used in handguns by law-abiding citizens for self-defense. And it substantially burdens the core right of self-defense guaranteed to the people under the Second Amendment. It cannot stand.”

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn dissented, stating that the law does not substantially burden Second Amendment rights because it does not prevent citizens from using “handguns or other weapons in self-defense.”

She wrote that “the prohibition on LCMs is more analogous to a restriction on how someone exercises their Second Amendment rights, by restricting the number of bullets a person may shoot from one firearm without reloading.”

The state Attorney General’s Office said in a statement, “We are carefully reviewing the decision, with the goal of protecting public safety. Until further proceedings in the courts, the stay on the injunction issued by the district court remains in place. The attorney general remains committed to using every tool possible to defend California’s gun safety laws and keep our communities safe.”

The ruling affirms U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez’s decision last year that the law violated the Second Amendment rights of gun owners and that its passage was an overreaction to high-profile gun crimes.

Benitez issued his ruling in favor of several San Diego County gun owners who argued the ban burdened lawful gun owners and did little to reduce gun violence.

Chuck Michel, president and general counsel of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, which represented the plaintiffs in the San Diego case, said, “Today’s decision in Duncan v. Becerra is a major victory for the Second Amendment, both in California and across the country. This is a huge win specifically for the right to possess these valuable self-defense tools.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein took to Twitter, stating she was “shocked” by the ruling.

“This decision runs contrary to at least seven separate federal court decisions and should be reviewed by a full 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit,” she wrote.

“California’s ban on high-capacity magazines doesn’t infringe on the right to bear arms – that has been decided over and over again in federal court. The clear aim of the ban aims to limit the number of mass shootings that kill dozens of Americans each year. It should be upheld.”

–City News Service

Updated, 7:05 p.m., with comments from state Attorney General’s office and Sen. Feinstein.