The law on firearms is always changing, often making it difficult for gun owners to keep up with new rules and regulations. On August 14, 2020, San Francisco’s 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that will overturn the state’s ban on large capacity gun magazines. This decision will have implications for magazine
Why did California ban large capacity gun magazines?
After a number of mass shootings across the US and amid calls for gun control, California lawmakers decided to ban large capacity magazines (LCMs), or gun cartridges that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
This case looked at another round of amendments in 2016, which declared a complete ban on the possession of LCMs, by almost everyone, everywhere, in the state. Gun owners in California would challenge the 2016 amendments, seeing the latest change in the already-restrictive law as a violation of their Second Amendment rights.
How did the court decide on the case?
After careful review, the Court of Appeals decided that the complete ban on large capacity magazines violates the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment says words that are familiar to many: the right of the people to keep and bear Arms … shall not be infringed.
In the almost 100-page decision, the Court gives three main reasons why the ban violates the Constitution:
- The ban imposes a “substantial burden” on Californians right to self-defense
- The ban makes it illegal to own a type of gun magazine necessary to operate some of the most commonly used guns in America
- The ban is so sweeping that it would make half of all gun magazines in the country illegal
Much of the Court’s ruling talks about the history of LCM use in America. The Court discusses how LCMs are commonly used in many handguns, which the US Supreme Court called in another ruling the “quintessential self-defense weapon.” Many variants of the Glock pistol and the Beretta Model 92 rely on gun cartridges that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Without LCMs, too many of these popular guns would be inoperable. Since data shows that more than half of all gun magazines available in the United States today carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition, the ban would also make these commonly owned self-defense weapons unusable.
The Court also discusses the importance of self-defense to American history and tradition. The decision traces the history of private gun-ownership to the American Revolution and earlier. Considering LCMs, the Court also discusses the history of this type of cartridge in America. LCMs are an invention dating hundreds of years and have been used to operate firearms as far back as before the Revolution.
However, in the case of large capacity magazines, the Court decided that the Second Amendment protects these types of cartridges and that they do not fall into the “dangerous and usual” category given their long history of use in America. This decision may eventually change who can possess what type of gun magazine for the future.
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