Los Angeles Times


Appeals court says the ban on large-capacity magazines does not hinder self-defense.

- By Maura Dolan

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld California’s ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines, a ruling likely to lead to the court’s approval of the state’s ban on assault weapons.

In an en banc decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 7 to 4 that a state law that limits the size of magazines — ammunition feeding devices for firearms — does not significan­tly interfere with the right to selfdefens­e. The court noted that there was no evidence that a person has been unable to defend a home because of lack of a largecapac­ity magazine.

During the past 50 years, the court said, large-capacity magazines have been used in about three-fourths of mass shootings that resulted in 10 or more deaths and in 100% of those with 20 or more deaths.

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

Two other gun control cases had been put on hold pending a decision in the magazine case. Tuesday’s decision suggests that California’s ban on assault weapons, which a lower court had struck down, is also likely to be ruled constituti­onal.

The four Republican appointees on the panel dissented — one of them accusing the majority of anti-gun bias — and a gun rights group said it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling.

A majority of the justices

on the Supreme Court has expressed support for limiting gun regulation­s, and the court is expected next year to strike down laws in California and New York that deny permits for most people to carry concealed weapons in public.

California’s large-capacity magazine ban, approved by voters in 2016, limits possession to magazines that hold 10 or fewer rounds of ammunition. A district judge and a divided threejudge 9th Circuit panel had struck down the law, which Tuesday’s ruling revived.

“Large-capacity magazines allow a shooter to fire more bullets from a single firearm uninterrup­ted,” Graber wrote, “and a murderer’s pause to reload or switch weapons allows potential victims and law enforcemen­t officers to flee or to confront the attacker.”

The court noted that Washington, D.C., and eight other states have also imposed restrictio­ns on largecapac­ity magazines and that six other federal courts of appeals have upheld the laws.

“The ban on large-capacity magazines has the sole practical effect of requiring shooters to pause for a few seconds after firing 10 bullets, to reload or to replace the spent magazine,” Graber wrote.

“Nothing in the record suggests that the restrictio­n imposes any more than a minimal burden on the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”

U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez overturned both the magazine ban and the bar on assault weapons. In the assault weapons case, Benitez likened an AR-15 semiautoma­tic rifle to a Swiss Army knife and called it “good for both home and battle.”

Benitez, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, said the assault weapons ban unconstitu­tionally infringed on the rights of California gun owners and “has had no effect” on curtailing mass shootings.

In a dissent Tuesday, 9th Circuit Judge Patrick J. Bumatay, a Trump appointee, said the banned magazines were “commonly owned by millions of lawabiding citizens for lawful purposes.”

“These magazines are neither dangerous and unusual, nor are they subject to longstandi­ng regulatory measures,” Butamay wrote.

Judge Lawrence VanDyke, another Trump appointee, wrote a separate dissent that accused his colleagues of infusing their personal views into the law.

“The majority of our court distrusts gun owners and thinks the 2nd Amendment is a vestigial organ of their living constituti­on,” VanDyke wrote.

VanDyke’s dissent, which no other judge signed, was unusual. Instead of focusing solely on the law, VanDyke questioned the other judges’ neutrality.

VanDyke said mass shootings were indeed “horrific” but also statistica­lly rare. Large-scale magazines might be needed for selfdefens­e if someone is attacked by a group of assailants, he said.

The majority’s “views drive this circuit’s case law, ignoring the original meaning of the 2nd Amendment and fully exploiting the discretion inherent in the Supreme Court’s cases,” VanDyke wrote.

Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz, an Obama appointee, objected.

VanDyke’s dissent was as inappropri­ate and factually unfounded as “a statement by the majority that today’s dissenters are willing to rewrite the Constituti­on because of their personal infatuatio­n with firearms,” Hurwitz wrote.

As to VanDyke’s contention that mass shootings were rare, Hurwitz said: “The people of California should not be precluded from attempting to prevent mass murders simply because they don’t occur regularly enough in the eyes of an unelected Article III judge.”

Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle & Pistol Assn., said his group would ask the 9th Circuit to put a hold on the decision while the associatio­n seeks review in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ban on possession of large-scale magazines had been stayed pending the outcome of the case and should continue to be blocked until the Supreme Court decides whether to weigh in, he said.

Michel predicted the Supreme Court would change the legal ground rules for evaluating gun laws and said the 9th Circuit should have delayed a ruling until after the high court’s decision next year on permits for carrying concealed weapons.

Supporters of gun regulation­s praised the 9th Circuit decision.

“Today’s ruling is the latest recognitio­n from the federal courts that reasonable gun safety laws are entirely consistent with the 2nd Amendment,” said Eric Tirschwell, executive director of Everytown Law, which litigates for a gun safety group. “This is great news for California­ns and an important contributi­on to the centuries of legal precedent backing lifesaving gun laws.”

‘Today’s ruling is the latest recognitio­n from the federal courts that reasonable gun safety laws are entirely consistent with the 2nd Amendment.’ — Eric Tirschwell,

Everytown Law

 ?? Rich Pedroncell­i Associated Press ?? A SEMIAUTOMA­TIC hunting rif le with a high-capacity detachable magazine is displayed at a gun store in Rocklin, Calif., in 2013.
Rich Pedroncell­i Associated Press A SEMIAUTOMA­TIC hunting rif le with a high-capacity detachable magazine is displayed at a gun store in Rocklin, Calif., in 2013.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States