State’s large capacity-magazine ban back in play after ruling is vacated

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File – A surrendered assault rifle magazine with bullets sits on a table during a gun buyback event on December 17, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – An appeals court ruling that tossed out California’s large capacity-magazine ban was vacated Thursday, with the San Diego-based case set to be reviewed by a larger panel of judges.

The decision vacates a three-justice panel’s ruling to uphold a San Diego federal judge’s findings that the ban on the acquisition and possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds was unconstitutional.

On appeal, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel split 2-1 to uphold U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez’s ruling, which stemmed from a lawsuit brought by several San Diego County gun owners who argued that the ban burdened lawful gun owners and did little to reduce gun violence.

Shortly after Benitez’s ruling was upheld, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra stated that the panel’s ruling was inconsistent with existing case law and called for an en banc review, which allows circuit courts to overturn and rehear rulings on cases heard by its three-justice panels.

Becerra praised Thursday’s decision, saying, “Large-capacity magazines have been used in many horrific mass shootings around the country, including right here in California. That’s why today’s decision by the 9th Circuit to rehear this case is critical; it is the next step in the defense our state’s commonsense gun laws.”

In the majority opinion issued last summer, U.S. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lee wrote that the ban’s “sweeping scope and breathtaking breadth” is a substantial burden on Second Amendment rights, as magazines holding more than 10 rounds account for nearly half of the nation’s magazines and are largely used for lawful purposes.

“We understand the purpose in passing this law,” the opinion reads. “But even the laudable goal of reducing gun violence must comply with the constitution. California’s near-categorical ban of LCMs infringes on the fundamental right to self-defense. It criminalizes the possession of half of all magazines in America today. It makes unlawful magazines that are commonly used in handguns by law-abiding citizens for self-defense. And it substantially burdens the core right of self-defense guaranteed to the people under the Second Amendment. It cannot stand.”

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn dissented, stating that the law does not substantially burden Second Amendment rights because it does not prevent citizens from using “handguns or other weapons in self-defense.”

Lynn wrote that “the prohibition on LCMs is more analogous to a restriction on how someone exercises their Second Amendment rights, by restricting the number of bullets a person may shoot from one firearm without reloading.”

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