New Federal Lawsuit Challenges CA's "Large Capacity" Magazine Confiscation Scheme

FILE - This Oct. 3, 2013 file photo shows a custom-made semi-automatic hunting rifle with a high-capacity detachable magazine is displayed at a gun store in Rockin, Calif. California voters are considering expanding some of the nation's toughest gun control measures nearly a year after the terrorist shootings in San Bernardino. Proposition 63 on the November ballot would outlaw possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines, require permits to buy ammunition and extend California's unique program that allows authorities to seize firearms from owners who bought guns legally but are no longer allowed to own them. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed on behalf of seven individual plaintiffs and four gun rights groups challenging California’s recently-enacted large capacity magazine ban/confiscation scheme.

Prior to the passage of SB 1446 last year and voter approval of Prop. 63 in November, Californians could possess large capacity magazines if they owned them before January 1, 2000, when the state banned their sale and importation. Now the state says owners must get rid of them by July 1, 2017 – without compensation – or face criminal liability. The Plaintiffs argue that violates their constitutional rights of self-defense and due process.

In addition, since both SB 1446 and Prop. 63 sought to amend California Penal Code Section 32406 and both passed, there are two active – but different – versions of that section, making the law vague and unenforceable, Plaintiffs contend.

Under the law as amended by Proposition 63, large capacity magazine owners are limited to three specific methods by which they can “dispose” of the magazine:

California Penal Code…requires a person who, prior to July 1, 2017, legally possesses a large-capacity magazine to “dispose” or the magazine, only by three specific methods:  (1) personal physical removal of the magazine from the state (since giving/arranging for or otherwise selling to someone out of state is still prohibited); (2) sale of the magazine to a “licensed firearms dealer,” and (3) surrender of the magazine to a law enforcement agency for destruction. However, and as alleged further below…the first two of these purported options are illusory, as they do not reflect viable means of recovering the value of their personal property, leaving only the third “option,” i.e., “surrender” of the magazine to law enforcement, for which no compensation is provided for or appropriated.

Even though they state magazine owners can sell the magazine to a licensed firearms dealer, how much do you think these dealers will offer to people who are forced to sell their property?

“California’s magazine ban laws violate the constitutional rights of law-abiding people in many ways,” said attorney George M. Lee, a partner of the plaintiffs’ San Francisco law firm Seiler Epstein Ziegler & Applegate LLP. “Not only does the ban infringe on Second Amendment rights, but it is clearly now a taking of private property. In fact, as we contend in the complaint, it amounts to a de facto confiscation.”

Lee also pointed out the legislature’s going back on their word.

“As a part of the legislative compromise associated with that original ban, owners of those grandfathered magazines were specifically exempt from the law,” he said. “The Legislature is basically reneging on that deal made many years ago.”

The case, Wiese v. Becerra, is supported by The Calguns Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation, and Second Amendment Foundation, all of whom are institutional plaintiffs in the case. CGF’s Chairman, Gene Hoffman, stated:

“The State of California’s ban scheme stands for the proposition that most any personal property can simply be taken away from you or forced out of your possession without due process or just compensation by legislative fiat. Today it’s firearm magazines, but tomorrow it will most certainly be some other constitutionally-protected private property.”

As Brandon Combs, president of Firearms Policy Coalition, said, these laws will turn thousands of law-abiding people into criminals and do nothing to increase public safety.