1A voter-approved gun-control law due to take effect Saturday, banning the
possession of magazines that can hold more than 10 cartridges, was blocked
Thursday by a federal judge, who said it would violate Californians’ right
to defend themselves.
“The right to bear arms includes the right to keep and carry ammunition and
magazines holding more than 10 rounds for those arms, for both self-defense
and to be ready to serve in a militia,” U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez
of San Diego said in issuing a statewide preliminary injunction against
enforcement of the law.
“Disarming California’s law-abiding citizens is not a constitutionally
permissible policy choice,” he said.
Hours earlier, another federal judge, William Shubb of Sacramento, had
reached the opposite conclusion in a different lawsuit challenging the same
law. But Benitez’s injunction will bar implementation of the measure unless
a higher court overrules him.
California already bans the sale of magazines carrying more than 10
cartridges. Proposition 63, a November 2016 ballot measure, went further by
banning possession. It also included a first-in-the-nation requirement that
background checks be done for buyers of firearms ammunition. That provision
was not at issue in Thursday’s ruling.
The state can appeal the ruling to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,
which in 2015allowed the city of Sunnyvale to enforce its own ban against
magazines holding more than 10 cartridges. San Francisco has a similar
prohibition that was allowed to take effect by a different federal judge.
But Benitez said the state failed to justify the need for a statewide ban.
While Sunnyvale, with a low crime rate, may be a place where “a law-abiding
citizen can make do with a maximum of 10 rounds,” he said, the need may be
greater in more dangerous communities and rural areas where police take
longer to reach crime scenes.
Ari Freilich, an attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and a
supporter of Prop. 63, predicted that Benitez’s ruling would be overturned
“Every other federal court to look at the issue has decided large-capacity
magazines are weapons of war,” he said.
The lawsuit was filed by the California Rifle and Pistol Association, a
state affiliate of the National Rifle Association, on behalf of five gun
owners who did not want to relinquish their weapons. Prop. 63 would require
them to sell the gun attachments to a licensed dealer, turn them over to
police or send them to another state.
The plaintiffs, Benitez said, are “law-abiding, responsible residents of
California” who “will be deemed criminals” if they keep the weapons they
legally acquired. He said they had shown a likelihood that Prop. 63 would
amount to government confiscation of their property as well as interference
with their right to self-defense.
The state’s evidence that the weapons enable mass shootings was
unconvincing, Benitez said. He said state lawyers had cited only two recent
mass killings with high-capacity magazines in California, and both were
committed by criminals who had obtained their weapons illegally and would
not have been deterred by a ban on possessing them.