Gun rights groups cheer high-capacity magazine ruling
SAN DIEGO – Gun rights advocates are hailing a federal court ruling striking down California’s ban on high-capacity gun magazines as perhaps the broadest and most forceful judicial statement yet of the right to bear arms, an antidote to what they see as treatment of the Second Amendment as a “disfavored right.”
The sweeping decision by San Diego-based U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez declared unconstitutional a section of Proposition 63, approved by the state’s voters in 2016 after several mass shootings, which forbids possession of gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Benitez, an appointee of President George W. Bush, opened with a dramatic, anecdotal recitation of killings in which the victims tried to defend themselves only to run out of ammunition.
He referenced the Nazi ban on Jews possessing weapons and reviewed recent mass shootings in the United States, saying there was no evidence a ban like California’s would have saved anyone.
“Bad political ideals cannot be stopped by criminalizing bad political speech,” Benitez wrote in the ruling, issued late last week.
“Crime waves cannot be broken with warrantless searches and unreasonable searches. Neither can the government response to a few mad men with guns and ammunition be a law that turns millions of responsible, lawabiding people trying to protect themselves into criminals.”
The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action called it “one of the strongest judicial statements in favor of the Second Amendment to date.”
In a statement, the group’s executive director, Chris Cox, said it was a “landmark recognition of what courts have too often treated as a disfavored right.”
Chuck Michel, who represented plaintiff Virginia Duncan as well as the California Rifle and Pistol Association, said in an interview that the decision could be used to counter what he called the “judicial mischief” caused by other courts.
Eric Tirschwell, litigation director at Everytown for Gun Safety, said the decision underscored “the dangerous gun lobby view that more lethal firearms will make America safer.” He noted that every federal appeals court that has considered such restrictions has gone the other way.
Among them is the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, where Benitez’s decision is bound.