9th Circuit Court Stays Lower Court Ruling Banning 'High' Capacity Magazines in California

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

In a completely unsurprising ruling today, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has placed a stay on the lower court ruling on the constitutionality of California's outright ban on "high" capacity magazines. 


Last month, a lower federal court judge overturned that ban as unconstitutional. On Tuesday, the larger “en banc” panel stayed that decision — stopping it from taking effect — pending an appeal by the state.

The decision divided the judges along ideological lines. The court’s liberal majority found that the state of California had made “strong arguments” for why the ban on ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds in them is constitutional. Even under a new, stricter test for gun laws set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, the jurists found, the state is likely to win its appeal.

The motivations for placing the stay on the ruling, was mainly to prevent what happened on March 29th, 2019, when the same law was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California by Judge Roger Benitez. At the time Benitez issued a stay, along with his unconstitutional ruling against the law, but also issued an injunction against the enforcement of the law. 

This injunction lasted for one week, in what became known to gun owners in the state as "freedom week," when California residents were allowed to purchase magazines of any capacity. From March 29th through April 5th, California residents purchased approximately 8 million magazines, until Benitez stayed in his injunction ruling to allow the state to appeal, which they successfully did when the (9th Circuit overruled Benitez's ruling. 


The California law prohibiting these magazines took effect in 2000, but that only made it illegal to purchase or manufacture them until a voter initiative known as Proposition 63 in 2016, made it illegal to possess them as well. This brought on the original lawsuit that made its way through the courts in California and eventually landed in the 9th Circuit.

However, with the recent SCOTUS decision regarding the Bruen case, this lawsuit was ordered to be reheard, which required the courts to use the standards issued by the majority in the Bruen decision. This forced the courts to apply a historical standard to gun laws, essentially requiring the states and courts to prove that there was a historical precedent to see if the laws met that criteria. 

The current situation has many on the conservative and pro-Second Amendment side frustrated, but hopeful at the same time. They all agree that the liberal majority of the court is not using the standards set forth in SCOTUS's Bruen decision, and that the arguments made by California Attorney General Robert Bonta in support of the law had no basis in legal theory or fact -- just emotion and conjecture. 

The panel’s conservative minority, dissenting, called their majority colleagues’ position “laughably absurd” and part of a pattern of decisions by liberal 9th Circuit jurists that has given “a blank check for governments to restrict firearms in any way they pleased.”

Circuit Judge Patrick J. Bumatay, a Trump appointee, accused the liberal majority of ignoring not only the U.S. Constitution but the U.S. Supreme Court’s clear directives on how to properly analyze restrictions on the 2nd Amendment in its decision last year in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn. vs. Bruen.

In that case, the Supreme Court found that modern gun laws must be deeply rooted in U.S. history or tradition, or be analogous to some historical law, to be constitutional.


Bumatay — joined by the panel’s other conservative judges — blasted the majority for not providing a clearer explanation for their opinion that the state was likely to win its appeal under Bruen.

The majority decision provided “no serious engagement with the Second Amendment’s text,” Bumatay wrote. “No grappling with historical analogues. No putting California to its burden of proving the constitutionality of its law.”

“The Constitution and Californians deserve better,” Bumatay wrote.

What the left simply doesn't understand, besides the obvious in this case, is the fact that these magazines are standard now in most modern firearms. This is just another continued push to strip away the ability of California's residents to safely defend themselves. When California Governor Gavin Newsom and other Democrats gaslight gun owners by saying if someone can't hit their targets in 10 rounds or less, they shouldn't have a gun in the first place, or that we want to kill police officers or military members.

Speaking from experience, when someone is under duress or high stress, their fine motor skills start to diminish in accordance with the body's "fight or flight" response to danger. Certain bodily functions alter their processes, or in some cases just stop. For example, in the first firefight I was in, I couldn't hear any of our own weapons being fired very well, but I could hear incoming fire better. No matter what training someone has, unless they are thoroughly and intensively trained, when presented with a threat, one tends to press that trigger until the gun stops working because it is empty. There are numerous examples of officers involved in a shooting reporting to the investigators that they only fired two or three rounds; but in reality, they fired 12 rounds. Just imagine what would happen to an average citizen; they need every round available to them. Stress changes a lot of things, and they refuse to acknowledge that. 


I have been around guns since I was 18; I was an expert marksman both in the Marines and in the Sheriff's Department. I shot competitively and still do when I can, and I train consistently. But with all that, I want to be able to carry as many rounds as possible in my carry weapon. Because they will never admit that every situation is different and requires a different response. As we say in the Marine Corps and I am sure a lot of other places, "situation will dictate."

It is clear that this case, along with the state's "assault" weapon ban, stands a very good chance of being heard by the Supreme Court after this. What happened this week is merely a bump in the road to the SCOTUS. How long will it take to get there, nobody knows, but we will get there. 


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