Appeals court reinstates California ban on large-capacity magazines

A divided federal appeals court on Tuesday revived a California ban on large-capacity magazines, finding the regulation to be compatible with the Second Amendment.

The 7-4 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit also found that the state had demonstrated that banning magazines that hold more than 10 bullets can reduce gun violence.

Judge Susan Graber, writing for the majority, noted that mass shootings that involved large-capacity magazines have killed or injured more than twice as many people as those involving smaller-capacity magazines.

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“The ban on legal possession of large-capacity magazines reasonably supports California’s effort to reduce the devastating damage wrought by mass shootings,” Graber, a Clinton appointee, wrote. 

Several judges wrote in dissent to express their view that California’s regulation runs afoul of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

“These magazines are lawfully owned by millions of people nationwide and come standard on the most popular firearms sold today,” Patrick Bumatay, a Trump appointee wrote in a dissent that was joined by two other judges, adding: “The Constitution protects the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms typically possessed for lawful purposes.”

The case arose in 2017 when a group of large-capacity magazine owners — backed by an affiliate of the National Rifle Association — sued to block the regulation, claiming the measure violated their Second Amendment rights and would unlawfully deprive them of property. 

The challengers prevailed in previous rounds of litigation, prompting an appeal to the full bench of the 9th Circuit by California’s attorney general. 

In ruling for California, the court also found the state had not deprived large-capacity magazine owners from the property because of provisions allowing owners to modify or sell the noncomplying magazines to firearms dealers.

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“Today’s decision is a victory for public safety in California,” said California attorney general Robert Bonta (D). “Gun violence is an epidemic in this country, but laws like our ban on large-capacity magazines are common sense ways to prevent this violence, including devastating mass shootings."

The Tuesday opinion comes ahead of a major Supreme Court decision expected this summer that could redefine the scope of the Second Amendment.

Updated at 2:37 p.m.