When U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez handed down his 71-page ruling in the case of Duncan v. Bonta, the Second Amendment Foundation quickly contended it could have a direct impact on similar bans in other states, including the challenge of Washington State’s ban, signed into law last year.
“We are delighted with this ruling,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb in a prepared statement. “The decision affects Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s defense against a lawsuit challenging a similar ban in his state, which is also in the Ninth Circuit, as well as bans in other states. Ultimately, we expect this issue will have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Judge Benitez’s remarks came before a federal judge in Spokane denied a motion for a preliminary injunction against the magazine ban in Washington State in a case that was not brought by SAF. The case is known as Brumback v.Ferguson.
It was the second time Judge Benitez had to elucidate on California’s ban on so-called “high-capacity magazines,” and he was very careful to include detailed footnotes. Some California gun rights advocates attending last weekend’s Gun Rights Policy Conference in Phoenix defined the ruling as “devastating.”
For example, Judge Benitez noted, “There is no American tradition of limiting ammunition capacity and the 10-round limit has no historical pedigree and it is arbitrary and capricious. It is extreme. Our federal government and most states impose no limits and in the states where limits are imposed, there is no consensus. Delaware landed on a 17-round magazine limit. Illinois and Vermont picked limits of 15 rounds for handguns and 10 rounds for a rifles. Colorado went with a 15-round limit for handguns and rifles, and a 28-inch tube limit for shotguns. New York tried its luck at a 7-round limit; that did not work out. New Jersey started with a 15-round limit and then reduced the limit to 10-rounds. The fact that there are so many different numerical limits demonstrates the arbitrary nature of magazine capacity limits.”
SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut observed, “This is the second time California has tried to defend this ban, and the second time Judge Benitez has ruled against the statute. California clearly does not get the message about the Second Amendment.”
Judge Benitez allowed California 10 days to file a notice of appeal, but he clearly drove a stake through the heart of a statute which—in the wake of the 2022 Bruen ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court—may be destined to end up in the cemetery of useless gun control laws.
Gottlieb’s remarks about the Washington statute come on the heels of SAF’s decision to move its civil rights lawsuit against Ferguson out of federal court and into state court. That lawsuit alleges that Ferguson, an anti-gun Democrat who supported the ban on magazines and so-called “assault weapons,” has used his office “to target citizens simply because they do not share Mr. Ferguson’s personal beliefs.”
According to the lawsuit, “The Washington Supreme Court recently reprimanded Mr. Ferguson for this practice when it held unanimously that his office had improperly used the Washington Consumer Protection and Charitable Solicitations Acts to suppress constitutionally protected speech with which he disagreed. But Mr. Ferguson remained unrepentant, publicly stating he is proud that his improper investigation chilled the exercise of constitutional rights… Mr. Ferguson’s office has now set its sights on conservative activist Alan Gottlieb and a number of nonprofit and other entities he is associated with.”
The investigation appears to have come to at least a temporary halt in the aftermath of the initial federal filing.
“After much deliberation, we felt it was best to move this lawsuit to state court where the Washington Attorney General has already been held to account for abusing his office’s authority,” said SAF’s Kraut. “SAF has, and continues to, cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office by providing requested information, offering employees for depositions, and delivering updated documents before they are requested. We are ambivalent that the Washington Courts will put a swift end to the Attorney General’s continuing undue harassment stemming from his seeming desire to score cheap political points by copying one of his colleague’s tactics to bolster his otherwise unimpressive resume for his gubernatorial bid.”
Meanwhile, the California ruling has buoyed the spirits of gun owners whose rights have been under virtual siege for years, many activists indicated over the course of the Gun Rights conference. And it signaled good odds for another favorable ruling in a case known as Miller v. Bonta.
To fully understand Judge Benitez’s apparent perspective on the California magazine ban, one should read his footnote on Page 5 of the new ruling, which refers to his prior ruling against California’s law.
“As this Court explained in its prior decision, ‘[a]rtificial limits will eventually lead to disarmament. It is an insidious plan to disarm the populace and it depends on for its success a subjective standard of ‘necessary’ lethality. It does not take the imagination of Jules Verne to predict that if all magazines over 10 rounds are somehow eliminated from California, the next mass shooting will be accomplished with guns holding only 10 rounds. To reduce gun violence, the state will close the newly christened 10-round ‘loophole’ and use it as a justification to outlaw magazines holding more than 7 rounds. The legislature will determine that no more than 7 rounds are ‘necessary.’ Then the next mass shooting will be accomplished with guns holding 7 rounds. To reduce the new gun violence, the state will close the 7-round ‘loophole’ and outlaw magazines holding more than 5 rounds determining that no more than 5 rounds are ‘suitable.’ And so it goes, until the only lawful firearm law-abiding responsible citizens will be permitted to possess is a single-shot handgun.’”
About Dave Workman
Dave Workman is a senior editor at TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms, and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.