Did pro Second Amendment forces really score a victory when a federal judge ruled California’s “high-capacity” magazine ban unconstitutional? Like most rulings, the answer is both yes and no.
The Good News
Last week, District judge Roger Benitez struck down the California ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds when he ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees access to such magazines for “self-defense at home.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) was quick to herald judge Beneitez’s opinion as a “huge win for gun owners.” Judge Beneitz lacked no color in delivering the 86-page decision—starting off with three true stories of home invasions that each resulted in a hail of bullets. In 2017, California’s “population of 39 million people endured 56,609 robberies, 105,391 aggravated assaults and 95,942 residential burglaries. There were also 423 homicides in victims’ residences,” Beneitez noted. “As evidenced by California’s own crime statistics, the need to protect one’s self and family from criminals in one’s home has not abated…. Law enforcement cannot protect everyone… Fortunately, the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to keep and bear firearms.”
Beneitez relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision, which clarified the right to keep a handgun in the home. Beneitez took issue with the state’s arbitrary number of 10 rounds of ammunition in a single magazine as somehow being “sufficient.” He noted that guns such as the popular Glock 17 pistol was designed and is regularly sold with a 17-round magazine. The Ruger 10/22, which shows success and common usage in the millions, is most often sold with 15- or 25-round magazines.
Judge Beneitez puts forth the simple test—established by the Supreme Court in Heller—that should be used widely in Second Amendment cases. “It is a hardware test,” he writes.
- Is the firearm hardware commonly owned?
- Is the hardware commonly owned by law-abiding citizens?
- Is the hardware owned by those citizens for lawful purposes?
If the answers are ‘yes,’ the test is over. The hardware is protected.”
However, Benitez did not stop there. He also added that the California law is also improper because it creates “substantial criminal penalties [for a] law-abiding, responsible, citizen who desires such magazines to protect hearth and home,” and “imposes a burden on the constitutional right that this Court judges as severe.”
The good judge also address the anti gunners cries that they see a need to restrict the magazines due to the threat, and cost, of mass shootings.
“This decision is a freedom calculus decided long ago by Colonists who cherished individual freedom more than the subservient security of a British ruler. The freedom they fought for was not free of cost then, and it is not free now,” Beneitez noted.
Not a Victory Yet
This particular section of the California law has never actually been implemented or enforced. It does not apply to all magazines, but rather those “high-capacity” magazines that were owned prior to the 2016 law, which was suspended due to legal challenges—much the same as this decision is sure to be.
This decision will also be challenged by or be a challenge to laws in other states that such as New York and Connecticut, which also have magazine capacity restrictions that local judiciaries have ruled to be constitutional.)
While the NRA is cheering the decision, it is also cognizant of the realities of the likely challenges that will be heard by the liberal-leaning Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. “Unfortunately, Friday’s opinion is not likely to be the last word on the case,” the NRA-ILA wrote after the decision was handed down on Friday. “The state will likely appeal to the Ninth Circuit, which has proven notably hostile to the Second Amendment in past decisions.”
No doubt, this is a victory today, but will it be a victory in the end or overturned by a biased liberal court with a record of not being friendly to the Second Amendment? Share your answer in the comment section.
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