Even a broken clock is right twice a day. The personification of that is the 9th Circuit federal court of appeals, which occasionally shocks us by issuing the correct ruling on cases from time to time. The latest example is California’s “high capacity” magazine ban, which was overturned by a three judge panel on Friday.
n a 2-1 ruling, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Friday affirmed a lower court ruling that the California ban on so-called “large-capacity magazines” violates the Second Amendment. The ruling may be read below or online here.
The majority opinion was written by Circuit Judge Kenneth K. Lee, joined by Judge Consuelo M. Callahan. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn dissented. The case is known as Duncan v. Becerra.
The case was brought by the California Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., and it attracted national attention from attorneys general in several other states, plus gun prohibition lobbying groups and gun rights organizations. CRPA is represented by attorney Chuck Michel. He quickly went on social media to provide a summary.
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In his 66-page ruling, Judge Lee observed, “We understand the purpose in passing this law. 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.”
The Truth About Guns adds:
Look for a couple of things to happen. First, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra will issue a statement decrying the ruling and announcing that it’s a crime against humanity that endangers the lives of all Californians. He’ll then ask the court for an en banc review of the decision and an order allowing the continued enforcement of the ban while the court considers the case.
In the mean time, look for online retailers to open up the floodgates — again — and start shipping magazines that hold more than 10 rounds into the state just as fast as UPS (and their dwindling inventories) will allow.
The key highlights of the ruling are as follows:
The Ninth Circuit employs a two-prong inquiry to determine whether firearm regulations violate the Second Amendment: (1) whether the law burdens conduct protected by the Second Amendment; and (2) if so, what level of scrutiny to apply to the regulation. United states v. Chovan, 735 F.3d 1127, 1136 (9th Cir. 2013)
The panel held that under the first prong of the test, Cal. Penal Code § 32310 burdened protected conduct. First, the panel held that firearm magazines are protected arms under the Second Amendment. Second, the panel held that LCMs are commonly owned and typically used for lawful purposes, and are not “unusual arms” that would fall outside the scope of the Second Amendment. Third, the panel held that LCM prohibitions are not longstanding regulations and do not enjoy a presumption of lawfulness. Fourth, the panel held that there was no persuasive historical evidence in the record showing LCM possession fell outside the ambit of Second Amendment protection.
Proceeding to prong two of the inquiry, the panel held that strict scrutiny was the appropriate standard to apply. First, the panel held that Cal. Penal Code § 32310 struck at the core right of law-abiding citizens to self-defend by banning LCM possession within the home. Second, the panel held that Section 32310’s near-categorical ban of LCMs substantially burdened core Second Amendment rights. Third, the panel held that decisions in other circuits were distinguishable. Fourth, the panel held that this circuit’s decision in Fyock v. City of Sunnyvale, 779 F.3d 991 (9th Cir. 2015), did not obligate the panel to apply intermediate scrutiny.
The panel held that Cal. Penal Code § 32310 did not survive strict scrutiny review. First, the panel held that the state interests advanced here were compelling: preventing and mitigating gun violence. Second, the panel held that Section 32310 was not narrowly tailored to achieve the compelling state interests it purported to serve because the state’s chosen method – a statewide blanket ban on possession everywhere and for nearly everyone – was not the least restrictive means of achieving the compelling interests.
The panel held that even if intermediate scrutiny were to apply, Cal. Penal Code § 32310 would still fail. The panel held that while the interests expressed by the state qualified as “important,” the means chosen to advance those interests were not substantially related to their service.
Of course the anti gun morons are flailing around in fits over this, as CBS Sacramento reports:
Friday’s ruling was a fractured decision partly because of that issue: Two of the three judges voted to toss out the state’s ban, while the third judge dissented.
U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Lynn of Texas, who had been named the third judge on the appellate panel, said the majority’s ruling conflicts with decisions in six other federal appellate courts across the nation, and with a 2015 ruling by a different panel of the 9th Circuit itself. She said she would have upheld California’s law based on that precedent.
“This ruling is an extreme outlier” given those earlier decisions, said Eric Tirschwell, managing director for Everytown Law, the litigation team affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety that favors firearms restrictions. “We expect the full court will rehear the case and correct this erroneous, dangerous, and out-of-step decision.”
Friday’s decision upholds a 2017 ruling by San Diego-based U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, who blocked a new law that would have barred gun owners from possessing magazines holding more than 10 bullets.
But he and the appeals court went further by declaring unconstitutional a state law that had prohibited buying or selling such magazines since 2000. That law had let those who had the magazines before then keep them, but barred new sales or imports.