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Ninth Circuit Upholds California’s ‘High-Capacity’ Magazine Ban

By: Joseph Warta

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in an unsurprising move, upheld California’s ban on so-called “high-capacity magazines” in a 7-4 vote on the case Duncan v. Bonta.

“High-capacity magazines,” as defined by the State of California, are defined as any magazine that can hold more than ten rounds.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, known for its strong left lean, covers Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona, Idaho, and Montana. The court is largely made up of politically liberal westerners, so the decision is largely unsurprising.

The magazine ban, which was originally passed by ballot initiative in 2016, was struck down by US District Judge Roger Benitez. After the State of California appealed the district judge’s decision at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Circuit Court overruled Benitez' ruling and upheld the ban as constitutional. The overarching argument is that the ban does not substantially limit a right to bear arms or to self-defense, and only reasonably limits the ability to own more dangerous weapons.

The majority opinion, penned by Judge Susan Graber (yes, that’s her real name!), argues that the magazine ban is a "reasonable fix" for the government's interest of fighting gun violence. Her argument continues, "The statute outlaws no weapon, but only limits the size of the magazine that may be used with firearms..." She argues that this ban did not substantially limit the ability of anyone to successfully defend himself.

Additionally, Judge Graber posited that the law is in line with the state’s attempt at reducing gun violence and is an effective measure at savings lives, so it should stand for this reason as well. This, of course, ignores that original intent of the Founders that a key component of the Second Amendment was self-defense against tyranny, not home invaders.

The decision was sharply dissented by Judge Lawrence VanDyke, a Trump appointee. In his dissent, he made clear that the Ninth Circuit's disregard for both the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court's precedent on the amendment is problematic: "Now, in the nine Western states covered by our court, the right to ‘keep and bear arms’ means, at most, you might get to possess one janky handgun and 2.2 rounds of ammunition, and only in your home under lock and key. That’s it. That’s ridiculous, and so I must respectfully dissent.”

Judge Patrick Bumatay, also on the dissenting side, brought up the argument that the court is making its decision based on whether or not the law is good policy, not the constitutionality of it: "... so long as a firearms regulation aims to achieve a conceivably wise policy measure, the Second Amendment won't stand in its way. In effect, this means we simply give a blank check to lawmakers to infringe on the Second Amendment right. Indeed, post-Heller, we have never struck down a single firearms regulation."

California Governor Gavin Newson reacted to the ruling, tweeting, “Weapons of war don’t belong on our streets. This is a huge victory for the health and safety of all Californians.”

From here, the plaintiffs intend to appeal the ruling, which would take it up to the Supreme Court. From the appeal, it will just be a matter of waiting to see if the Supreme Court will take the case up or not.

 
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