California’s ban on high-capacity gun magazines can remain in effect, court rules

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) -A divided federal appeals court is allowing California’s ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition to remain in effect while the state appeals a judge’s ruling finding it unconstitutionally violated the rights of firearms owners.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday on a 7-4 vote stayed a judge’s Sept. 22 ruling finding the state’s ban violated gun owners’ rights to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

The ruling came in a long-running lawsuit by the California Rifle & Pistol Association and gun owners challenging the ban.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego in siding with them had cited a 2022 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v Bruen, requiring that firearms restrictions be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” to pass muster.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat, quickly moved to stay that decision, and on Monday, the 9th Circuit’s majority agreed with Bonta that the law likely remained valid even under the conservative-majority Supreme Court’s ruling.

The court said that federal judges nationally had largely upheld large-capacity magazine restrictions since the Supreme Court ruled and that a decision to the contrary could threaten public safety.

“If a stay is denied, California will indisputably face an influx of large-capacity magazines like those used in mass shootings in California and elsewhere,” the judges, all appointees of presidents who were Democrats, wrote.

Four judges appointed by Republican presidents dissented, including U.S. Circuit Judge Patrick Bumatay, who called the court’s attitude toward the Second Amendment in this and other cases “laughably absurd.”

Bonta in a statement said his office was “relieved that the court considered the public safety of Californians in its decision.”

Chuck Michel, the president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, in a statement expressed disappointment and vowed to “defend the rights of gun owners in California all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Benitez had struck down the magazines ban once before in 2019, but the 9th Circuit overturned him in 2021. The Supreme Court vacated the appeals court ruling and ordered new proceedings consistent with the Bruen decision.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; editing by Jonathan Oatis)