Overturns controversial ruling

A panel of 9th Circuit Judges on Tuesday upheld California’s ban on high-capacity magazines, saying the state restrictions on magazines that can hold more than ten rounds of ammunition is a reasonable effort to reduce gun violence.

The decision overturns an earlier ruling by a federal judge in San Diego who has long been criticized by gun control advocates for his blunt condemnation of California gun laws. The original case, brought by the California Rifle & Pistol Association and private gun owners, claimed the 2016 law restricting high-capacity magazines violated their Second Amendment rights.

In his 2019 ruling on the case, U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez’ struck down the restriction on firearm magazines, citing a number of burglary-homicides where he said the amount of ammunition available made the difference between life and death. Benitez is also known for overturning California’s decades-old assault weapons ban, likening the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife that could be used for “both home and battle.”

Benitez, in striking down that ban, said the harm from being injured by such a weapon in a mass shooting was rare, and that “more people have died from the COVID-19 vaccine than mass shootings in California.”

The panel of judges on Tuesday noted that, in the past half-century, large-capacity magazines have been used in about three-quarters of gun massacres with 10 or more deaths and in 100 percent of gun massacres with 20 or more deaths. Furthermore, the judges wrote, more than twice as many people have been killed or injured in mass shootings that involved a large-capacity magazine as compared with mass shootings that involved a smaller-capacity magazine. 

“California’s ban on large-capacity magazines imposes only a minimal burden on the exercise of the Second Amendment right. The law has no effect whatsoever on which firearms may be owned; as far as the challenged statute is concerned, anyone may own any firearm at all. Owners of firearms also may possess as many firearms, bullets, and magazines as they choose,” the court wrote in its opinion, spearheaded by Judge Susan P. Graber.

The judges noted that people under fire by a mass shooter have a chance to hide or fight back when a gunman has to reload, contending a smaller magazine can save lives. “In sum, large-capacity magazines provide significant benefit to soldiers and criminals who wish to kill many people rapidly. But the magazines provide at most a minimal benefit for civilian, lawful purposes,” the opinion reads.

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