On March 29th, 2019, a US District Court Judge for the Southern District of California issued an order striking down California Penal Code section 32310. This is the section of California law that relates to magazine capacity limits. Specifically, it makes it illegal to have any “large-capacity magazine”. Punishments ranged from a $100 fine per magazine up to a year in county jail. Consequently, until another ruling countermands this one, it is currently no longer against California state law to possess magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.
Lawsuit Against California
The plaintiffs for this suit submitted what is called a motion for summary judgment. Such a motion is exactly what it sounds like, it petitions the court to just issue a ruling. Such orders are rarely granted. In them, the petitioner asserts that the facts of the case are so evident that no further discovery or evidence needs be shown or discussed. The Honorable Roger T. Benitez agreed. In an 86 page judgment, the court viciously tore into California law and California’s attorney general.
First Judge Benitez listed a variety of anecdotal cases in which the law directly harmed Californians. Most notably, a series of cases in which Californians were unable to stop a home invasion due to running out of ammunition. Secondly, and after hammering that point home, he laid out a thorough dissection of California’s reasoning behind the ban. Needless to say, he found it wanting.
Additionally, the court discussed 5th Amendment implications, specifically the Takings Clause. The Takings Clause prevents the government from seizing private property for public use without just compensation. Previous case law has established the precedent that even private property being seized without the intention of public use can be subject to Takings Clause limitations. As the court put it “the Takings Clause prevents [California] from compelling the physical dispossession of such lawfully-acquired private property without just compensation.”
Furthermore, the Court declared that magazines constitute bearable arms, and are thus protected rights under the Second Amendment. While the total reasoning is too elaborate and lengthy to get into here, it is recommended reading. In the order, the Hon. Roger T. Benitez waxed nearly poetic on the rights of Americans. Because of the rhetoric and fire, the opinion reminds me of the late Justice Scalia. The first full paragraph of page 40 is of particular interest.
What Comes Next
Many have been quick to celebrate this court order, lauding it as a victory. It is unfortunately not as big a deal as has been made of it. While the district court judge did indeed strike down the law as unconstitutional, California will appeal the ruling to the 9th Circuit. It is unknown how the 9th Circuit will rule, however in the intermission California is barred from enforcing its magazine ban. Cautious optimism is the word of the day.