California court battle over gun magazines shows division in America


Late last month, a coalition of 19 US states and the District of Columbia came together to support California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

In a brief filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where a challenge to California law is being considered, The coalition argued that California’s ban is “fully consistent” with the Second Amendment and should be considered legal.

On Thursday night, 25 other states responded with their own brief arguing just the opposite. They said California’s ammunition ban was a threat to the Second Amendment and individual gun owners’ right to self-defense, and should be overturned as unconstitutional.

The conflicting legal briefs showed in clear terms something most Americans already understand after years of intense gun debates and an endless barrage of mass shootings: This is a nation deeply divided on gun policy.

“This is a reflection of where the country is,” said Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor who specializes in Second Amendment law. “It really highlights a political divide.”

The reports also showed how differently attorneys general and other legal leaders in red and blue states are interpreting the sweeping new limits the U.S. Supreme Court placed on gun laws nationwide last year, Winkler said. and liberal leaders perceive plenty of leeway for state gun restrictions. to survive, and their conservative counterparts see much less.

The case related to the ban on high-capacity chargers in California is not the only one in which this division is manifested. Gun laws are being challenged in courts across the country following the Supreme Court’s decision last year in the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. v. Bruen, and states are constantly weighing which of those cases to weigh in on.

In Bruen, the high court rejected a long-standing pillar of Second Amendment Law that held that governments can enforce certain restrictions on firearms if they have a compelling governmental interest in doing so. Instead, the judges decided, most restrictions on firearms are legitimate only if they are Deeply rooted in American history or analogous to some other historical rule.

The failure caused A mountain of legal challenges to gun laws. across the country, including in California.

As a result, California bans on high capacity magazines and assault style weapons Both were struck down as unconstitutional in recent months by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego.

The state has appealed both rulings and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked them from taking effect. while considering appeals.

When a law is challenged in court, outside parties with vested interests in the outcome of the decision sometimes file their own briefs for or against the law in question.

That’s what happened with the two state coalitions in the case over California’s high-capacity magazine ban, because the appeals court decision could have implications for gun laws in other states as well.

Joining the filing in support of California’s ban were Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State and Wisconsin.

Those states argued that, under the Constitution, they have the ability to impose restrictions on particularly dangerous weapons and accessories, leaving citizens other options for self-defense; that high-capacity ammunition magazines are not commonly used “weapons” under the Second Amendment; and that California law is consistent with a long historical tradition in this country of regulating particularly dangerous weapons and accessories.

“We work every day to promote the health, well-being and safety of our residents, including taking steps to curb threats of mass shootings and other forms of gun violence that harm our residents and inhibit their exercise of constitutionally protected freedoms.” , he says, arguing that such efforts are within his rights under the Constitution.

Massachusetts Attorney. Gen. Andrea Joy Campbell, one of the leaders of the coalition supporting California’s ban, said in a statement that such measures “save lives and protect the public from gun violence.”

Joining the filing in opposition to California’s ammunition ban were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota , Ohio, Oklahoma. , South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Those states argued that California’s ban threatened the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and clearly conflicted with the Bruen decision, in part because such bans are not part of the nation’s history and tradition on the matter. of firearms regulations. They said these magazines are commonly possessed and used for self-defense and are clearly “weapons” within the scope of the Second Amendment.

Montana Attorney. Gen. Austin Knudsen, one of the leaders of that coalition, said in a statement that Judge Benítez had “correctly concluded that California law unconstitutionally restricts the fundamental right to keep and carry magazines of common firearms normally possessed for legal purposes”, and that its decision The annulment of the law should be confirmed by the court of appeals.

It is unknown when the Ninth Circuit will rule in the case. His decision could be appealed again to the Supreme Court.

UCLA’s Winkler said the California case is “a symbol of where we are in the gun debate right now,” meaning how “incredibly unsettled” gun law is after the Bruen ruling.

“Bruen has changed things, but it leaves a lot of questions in play, and the ban on high-capacity magazines is one of them,” he said.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office was asked about the other states opposing California’s ban on high-capacity chargers this week, he referred to his statement denouncing Benitez’s ruling in September that struck down the law.

“This is politics,” Newsom said at the time, “pure and simple.”

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