Saturday, September 23, 2023

California's Magazine Ban Declared Unconstitutional by Federal Judge

Federal District Judge Roger T. Benitez has declared California’s prohibition on magazines, holding more than ten rounds of ammunition, unconstitutional once more. However, he has delayed the enforcement of this decision for ten days, allowing the state an opportunity to appeal. The case, Duncan v. Bonta, revolves around the state’s restriction on the possession of standard capacity magazines, introduced as a part of Proposition 63 in 2016.

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The regulation made it illegal to possess such magazines, even for responsible firearm owners who had acquired them legally prior to the implementation of the ban. The challengers of this law argued that it was a violation of their Second Amendment rights. The ruling by Judge Benitez in 2019, then under the case name Duncan v. Becerra, momentarily halted the enforcement of the prohibition, stating that it infringes upon the rights of Californians to defend themselves.

Judge Benitez emphasized the lawful use of these magazines by millions of Californians, especially for self-defense. This initial ruling led to a surge in standard capacity magazine purchases during a period known as “Freedom Week.” Subsequently, the state managed to secure a stay on the judge’s decisions, allowing residents to retain the magazines acquired during “Freedom Week,” but preventing further acquisitions. 

Due to the ten-day delay in the enforcement of the recent decision, a similar surge in purchases is not expected immediately. The case traveled up to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and was sent back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and eventually, back to Judge Benitez. Many observers interpreted these developments as attempts by the Ninth Circuit to delay a resolution in favor of the plaintiffs.

Judge Benitez, in his most recent decision, echoed his earlier arguments, critiquing the arbitrary nature of magazine capacity limitations, given the varying restrictions in different states, with many imposing no restrictions at all. He also rejected the state’s claim that more than ten rounds are unnecessary for self-defense. Benitez asserted that victims might, at times, need more than ten rounds to counter attackers.

The state has swiftly appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the path is steep, particularly as the concept of interest balancing, which weighs state’s interests against individual rights, can no longer be leveraged after the Bruen decision declared that laws must align with the Second Amendment’s text, history, and tradition.

If the Ninth Circuit does not prolong the stay, Californians will have the opportunity to acquire standard capacity magazines once the ten-day period concludes. Nonetheless, there is a prevalent anticipation that the Circuit Court will extend the stay until a conclusive ruling is reached.

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