Federal appeals court upholds California law banning high-capacity gun magazines
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Federal appeals court upholds California law banning high-capacity gun magazines

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Tuesday ruled 7-4 in favor of a California law banning high-capacity gun magazines.

The case, Duncan v. Bonta, concerns the importation, possession, and sale of magazines containing more than ten bullets. California Penal Code section 32310 prohibits possession of such high-capacity magazines. The plaintiffs in the case argued that the law violates the Second Amendment, the Takings Clause, and the Due Process Clause.

In reviewing the plaintiff’s Second Amendment claims, the Ninth Circuit applied a two-prong analysis. The analysis asks “whether the challenged law affects conduct protected by the Second Amendment, and if so, what level of scrutiny to apply.”

First, the court assumed that the challenged conduct affects Second Amendment protections. The court then applied intermediate scrutiny and determined that the California law was a “reasonable fit” for the government interest of reducing gun violence. They found that the law only “minimally interferes” with a right to self-defense and that the limitation is effective because it “saves lives.” The Takings Clause and Due Process Clause challenges were rejected because the government acquires no property, and the law allows for owners to sell the regulated magazines.

The dissenting judges argued that the majority was mistaken in their use of a tiers-of-scrutiny approach. The judges favored an analysis which looks at both the history of the Amendment and current ownership. In their view, high magazine capacity ownership at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification counsels no regulation. Additionally, they argued that, since high-capacity magazines have been used widely over the last two centuries, they are protected by the Second Amendment.

Critics argue that the law places an unnecessary burden on gun owners and their right to self-defense. Proponents of the law claim that similar laws could help to decrease the level of large-scale violence while still respecting the right to own guns. Regardless, the constitutional debate in this case may take the Supreme Court to resolve.