Current News

/

ArcaMax

Ruling that struck down California ban on large-capacity gun magazines is vacated for rehearing

Kristina Davis, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SAN DIEGO — A recent appellate court decision that struck down California’s ban on possessing large-capacity gun magazines has been vacated as a broader panel of the court readies to rehear the San Diego-based case.

The appeal was initially decided in August in a split decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a filing Thursday, the court’s chief judge said a majority of active, nonrecused judges voted that the case should be reheard en banc, or by a larger panel of 11 judges. For unknown reasons, two judges did not participate in deliberations or vote on the decision to rehear: John Owens, an Obama appointee based in San Diego, and Daniel Bress, a recent Trump appointee.

While the ban on owning large-capacity magazines stays in place for now, a lower-court ruling that prohibits enforcement of the ban while the case is being litigated also remains in effect.

A hearing date has not yet been set.

The federal lawsuit was filed in 2017 by the California Rifle and Pistol Association — the state arm of the National Rifle Association — and five San Diego County residents.

They were opposing two 2016 state laws: a bill passed by the Legislature making it illegal to own magazines that hold 10 or more bullets, as well as a voter-passed ballot measure that requires people to get rid of such magazines they already own or face being charged with a misdemeanor or infraction.

A 2000 law already makes it illegal to sell or buy such magazines.

The lawsuit argued the new laws infringe on the constitutional right to bear arms. Three of the plaintiffs said they wanted the magazines for self-defense while two others said they shouldn’t have to give up magazines they already own.

 

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez sided with the gun owners, saying in a strongly worded opinion that the law “turns millions of responsible, law-abiding people trying to protect themselves into criminals.”

The state attorney general’s office appealed, and the district court’s decision was upheld. The majority opinion, penned by Judge Kenneth K. Lee, found the law “runs afoul of the Second Amendment,” particularly the right to armed self-defense.

Judge Barbara Lynn dissented, finding that the law “does not place a substantial burden on core Second Amendment rights because it does not prevent the use of handguns or other weapons in self-defense.”

The attorney general petitioned for the en banc hearing, arguing that the ruling conflicted with other court decisions.

“This case involves a question of exceptional importance, affecting the safety of every Californian,” the state argued in its petition.

Chief Judge Sidney Thomas granted the petition after a majority of the bench voted in its favor.

———

©2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Visit sandiegouniontribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.