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Appeals Court Upholds California’s High-Capacity Magazine Ban…for Now

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As of Tuesday, California’s ban on high-capacity magazines remains intact, at least for now. In a second review by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, an 11-judge panel overturned a lower-court ruling that nullified the ban passed by voters in 2016. The decision was split 7-4.

More than 63 percent of voters approved Proposition 63 in the November 2016 election, which required some people to pass background checks prior to buying ammunition and banned possession of magazines holding more than 10 rounds. 

In April 2020, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego ruled that the ban was a violation of the Second Amendment in a case brought by private gun owners and the California Rifle & Pistol Association. The ruling prevented former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and later Rob Bonta from enforcing the law as voters wished. 

The same judge was responsible for overturning the state’s assault weapons ban in June, infamously comparing the AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army knife. The 9th Circuit initially upheld Benitez’s decision, but the case was ultimately granted a new appeals hearing.

The court said Tuesday:

“The ban on legal possession of large-capacity magazines reasonably supported California’s effort to reduce the devastating damage wrought by mass shootings.” 

Both Bonta and Gov. Gavin Newsom applauded the federal court’s latest ruling. “Weapons of war don’t belong on our streets,” Newsom said.

“This is a huge victory for the health and safety of all Californians.”

But Tuesday’s decision may not be the end of the road for the ban’s legal challenge. Four judges dissented, including former President Donald Trump appointee Judge Patrick Bumatay, who asserted that high-capacity magazines are “commonly used” for self-defense purposes. 

Chuck Michel, the California Rifle & Pistol Association’s president and general counsel, said the organization was “disappointed but not surprised” by Tuesday’s decision, calling the 11-judge panel “bitterly factioned.” Michel added that “the fight is far from over” and indicated they would likely pursue the case with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon in a separate case challenging a New York law restricting concealed weapons.     

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.