Federal District Judge Roger T. Benitez has once again knocked down California’s magazine ban, concluding that the law is unconstitutional, but the judge stayed his decision for ten days to give the state a chance to appeal his decision. The judge wrote:
“Defendant Attorney General Rob Bonta, and his officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and those persons in active concert or participation with him, and those duly sworn state peace officers and federal law enforcement officers who gain knowledge of this injunction order, or know of the existence of this injunction order, are enjoined from enforcing California Penal Code § 32310.”
Duncan v. Bonta centered on California’s ban on standard capacity magazines, often defined as those capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition.
Enacted in 2016 as part of Proposition 63, this law sought to criminalize the mere possession of such magazines, even for law-abiding gun owners who had legally acquired them before the ban came into effect. Plaintiffs argued that this ban amounted to an unconstitutional infringement on their Second Amendment rights.
In 2019, when the case then known as Duncan v. Becerra, Judge Benitez issued a summary judgment for the plaintiffs, temporarily blocking the enforcement of California’s ban on standard-capacity magazines. Judge Benitez’s ruling was rooted in the belief that this ban violated the Second Amendment and deprived Californians of their right to self-defense. He noted that millions of responsible gun owners in California had used these magazines for lawful purposes, particularly for self-defense.
After the ruling, it set off what Californians called “Freedom Week,” where citizens of the Golden State rushed to the internet to buy standard capacity magazines.
The state would ask and receive a stay on the judge’s decisions. The Californians could keep the magazines they purchased during this time period. Because of the ten-day stay, there will not be a repeat of the Freedom Week for the time being.
The case would make it to the Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) before being remanded to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after the Bruen decision. The Ninth Circuit would then remand it back to Judge Benitez. Many saw this as the Ninth trying to delay the inevitable decision for the plaintiffs.
Judge Benitez’s new decision shared most of the same arguments as his original decision. He called the magazine limitation arbitrary because each state regulates the number of allowed rounds differently, with most having no restrictions.
“The fact that there are so many different numerical limits demonstrates the arbitrary nature of magazine capacity limits,” the judge wrote.
Judge Benitez also took issue with the state’s argument that having more than ten rounds is unnecessary for self-defense. He took the pro-gun stance that even though you might not need more than ten rounds in most situations to defend yourself, it is better to have it when you need it than to play the odds and take a chance.
“There have been, and there will be, times where many more than 10 rounds are needed to stop attackers,” Judge Benitez wrote. “…Woe to the victim who runs out of ammunition before armed attackers do. The police will mark the ground with chalk, count the number of shell casings, and file the report.”
The state has already issued a notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but faces an uphill battle now that it cannot use interest balancing. Better known as intermediate scrutiny, interest balancing balances the state’s wants against the people’s rights. The Bruen decision rejected the legal theory, stating that any law must be consistent with the Second Amendment’s text, history, and tradition.
If the Ninth Circuit doesn’t extend the stay, it will block the law after ten days, allowing Californians to acquire standard capacity magazines. However, people expect the Circuit Court to extend the stay until it can rule on the decision.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist; he has written about firearms and interviewed people of all walks of life. Mr. Crump lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.