Federal judge stays ruling declaring California’s gun magazine ban unconstitutional

SAN DIEGO — California’s law banning gun magazines that hold more than 10 bullets went back into effect Friday afternoon, one week after a San Diego federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez issued a stay Thursday on his March 29 ruling that the law violated the Second Amendment rights of gun owners and that its passage was an overreaction to high-profile gun crimes.

Benitez issued the stay following a petition from Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office which has appealed the decision declaring the law unconstitutional to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We are pleased that the judge stayed the effect of his decision pending our appeal,” Becerra said. “We look forward to defending this important public safety law before the 9th Circuit and are confident that it is constitutional.”

The stay does not apply to anyone who purchased, sold, or imported magazines between last week’s decision and 5 p.m. Friday.

In his ruling overturning the law, Benitez, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote, “Bad political ideas cannot be stopped by criminalizing bad political speech. Crime waves cannot be broken with warrantless searches and unreasonable seizures. Neither can the government response to a few mad men with guns and ammunition be a law that turns millions of responsible, law- abiding people trying to protect themselves into criminals. Yet, this is the effect of California’s large-capacity magazine law.”

The executive director of the National Rifle Association’s political and lobbying arm called last Friday’s ruling a “huge win for gun owners” and a “landmark recognition of what courts have too often treated as a disfavored right.”

“Judge Benitez took the Second Amendment seriously and came to the conclusion required by the Constitution,” said Chris W. Cox of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

“The same should be true of any court analyzing a ban on a class of arms law-abiding Americans commonly possess for self-defense or other lawful purposes.”

Benitez issued a preliminary injunction in 2017 stopping enforcement of the law. The injunction was upheld in July by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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