A West Coast gun prohibition lobbying group is having fits over a ruling by a three-judge appeals court panel that declared California’s ban on so-called “large capacity magazines” violates the Second Amendment.
The 2-1 majority opinion was authored by Circuit Judge Kenneth K. Lee, joined by Circuit Judge Consuelo M. Callahan. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn dissented.
The case is known as Duncan v. Becerra. It was brought by the California Rifle & Pistol Association on behalf of several individual citizens including Virginia Duncan—for whom the case is named—Richard Lewis, Patrick Lovette, David Marguglio and Christopher Waddell.
The decision upheld an earlier ruling by District Judge Roger T. Benitez in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California.
But the Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility—a billionaire-supported gun control group—sent an email laden with alarm:
“We’ve been dealt a devastating blow: The 9th Circuit has struck down California’s prohibition on high-capacity magazines, in a major break from precedent,” the message says. “This puts the future of restrictions on high-capacity magazines in serious jeopardy.
“High-capacity magazines, favored by mass shooters, make shootings more deadly by making it easier to fire more rounds at a target faster,” the message continues. “The precious seconds it takes a shooter to reload can mean the difference between life and death. These lethal accessories have no place in our communities.”
However, those “accessories” are protected by the Second Amendment, the court explains.
The National Rifle Association, which supported the lawsuit, issued a statement: “This is a huge win for the NRA and gun owners nationwide. The 9th Circuit, which isn’t often a favorable court for gun owners, ruled it is unconstitutional to place arbitrary bans on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The judge who authored the opinion in this case was appointed by President Trump. That means everyone who voted pro-gun in 2016 played a role in this significant win. It’s a reminder to everyone: Vote in November. Your rights depend on it.”
Importantly, Judge Lee used strict scrutiny in forming the majority opinion. Citing the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, the judge wrote, “the Supreme Court held that ‘the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.” In other words, just because a weapon was not in existence during the founding era does not mean it is ‘unusual.’”
Judge Lee is a Donald Trump appointee and Judge Callahan was appointed by George W. Bush. Judge Lynn is a Bill Clinton appointee.
The Alliance declared, “This ruling against a commonsense gun safety measure is a huge outlier in decades of case law and the opinion was drafted by a Trump-appointed judge who followed the gun lobby’s playbook to a T.
“This decision is not the end of the line for high-capacity magazine prohibitions, but it is extremely troubling. The Trump Administration has packed federal courts with gun lobby judges who can do irreparable harm to our justice system and block lifesaving policies. We cannot let them succeed.”
This is just one more signal that gun rights versus gun control will be a central issue in the campaign for the presidency and control of Congress.
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