9th Circuit maintains California ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines

In this photo from June 11, 2019, boxes of .22 caliber ammunition are on display for sale at the Foothill Ammo store in Shingle Springs, California.

A federal appeals court upheld the California ban on high-capacity ammunition stores on Tuesday, overturning a lower court ruling and awarding Gov. Gavin Newsom a victory.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals bench-split ruling upheld the constitutionality of two California laws banning magazines that may contain 10 or more rounds. The majority opinion reinforced the public safety rationale for the restrictions by noting that high capacity magazines are often used in high-fatality shootings.

“As a result, the ban on legal possession of high-capacity magazines has reasonably supported California’s efforts to reduce the devastating damage caused by mass shootings,” the majority wrote, adding that the laws do not constitute a illegal taking by the government because “the government does not acquire anything under the limitation on the capacity of magazines.

This position sparked dissent from a pair of judges appointed by former President Donald Trump, Lawrence VanDyke and Patrick Bumatay.

The background: A 2016 law and a ballot initiative championed by Newsom, then California’s then lieutenant governor, banned high-capacity magazines in an attempt to reduce gun violence. Voters overwhelmingly supported the initiative, overtaking it by a margin of nearly 30 points.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez overturned those laws in a 2021 ruling that likened the AR-15s to a “Swiss Army knife” and claimed coronavirus vaccines were deadlier than mass shootings, prompting indignation. Newsom condemned Benitez as a “wholly owned subsidiary of the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association”.

California’s appeal gained national dimension as many prosecutors from other Blue states signed in favor, while those from Texas and other Red states backed the plaintiffs.

And after: The plaintiffs plan to appeal the ruling, lawyer CD Michel said in an email, citing dissenting opinions suggesting that a challenge would be “appropriate”. That could take the case to the United States Supreme Court, where the Conservative justices hold a 6-3 majority.

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