As expected, the State of California filed an appeal of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit three-judge panel that upheld the ruling that the State’s ban on Large Capacity Magazines (LCM) was unconstitutional in the case of Duncan v. Becerra. Nothing about the request for a rehearing by an en banc panel was a surprise, from the arguments being made to the appeal being filed on the final day. California will do anything and everything to protect one of its signature gun control measures and bleed the opposition dry while doing it. And just because you’re not from People’s Republik of Kalifornistan doesn’t mean this case shouldn’t be important to you.
All of the materials, filings and rulings on this case are available at the link below. It’s worth your time to read and understand what is going on since California likes to export its bad, expensive and unconstitutional policies to the rest of the country.
There are a few things I found particularly interesting in the State’s Petition for Rehearing En Banc.
First, the State sees no reason or need for any civilian to have so-called large capacity magazines. In fact, the filing indicates “The record here demonstrates that LCMs are not well-suited for self-defense.” It rationalizes that Californian’s can have as many 10 round magazines as they want, and (currently) as much ammunition as they want.
The photo that accompanies this article is from a home security system in a Fremont, CA home invasion burglary on August 28, 2016. It shows five armed men coming into the house, at least one carrying a handgun with a magazine extending below the pistol grip, a LCM. Fortunately, the residents were not home at the time. Even if the resident was armed with a California 10 round magazine, he would most certainly have been killed in this encounter. In this burglary the homeowner was able to call the police while watching the burglary on his home cameras remotely. Unfortunately, the armed home invaders left before the police arrived and were not caught.
The State has never explained why a so-called LCM is not-well suited for self-defense, but it’s the exact opposite of the training and advise of every reputable self-defense instructor I’ve ever known, including my own. It has also never offered any explanation why 10 rounds is the magic, safe enough for civilians number, but 11 is way too dangerous.
Let’s also keep in mind that in some places like New York City, firearms that simply have the capability to accept a so-called LCM are banned. So, if even one magazine is made for it with a capacity over 10 rounds, the firearm itself is banned.
The State also references the Fyock v. Sunnyvale, a local California ordinance banning magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds, which was upheld by a three-judge panel, as a binding precedent.
There are several issues that come from Fyock, not the least of which is that California does not have a preemption law banning local jurisdictions from passing their own more restrictive firearm regulations. As we’ve seen in states without preemption, this results in a patchwork of laws throughout the state that are impossible for any law-abiding citizen to understand or comply with. Virginia recently removed its preemption for firearm regulations and now anti-gun cities are drafting unique and highly confusing laws regulating use and possession within its borders.
Fyock was also decided under what is known as Intermediate Scrutiny, which is what the State believes is the correct level for Second Amendment cases. Duncan’s ruling utilized Strict Scrutiny.
A quick note on Rational-Basis, Intermediate Scrutiny, and Strict Scrutiny
Under Rational Basis the government must have a legitimate interest and the law must be “rationally related” to the interest.
Under Intermediate Scrutiny, the government must have an important interest and the law must be substantially related to the interest.
Under Strict Scrutiny, the government must have a compelling interest and the law must be narrowly tailored to the interest.
Note that the likelihood of a law being overturned increases as the level of scrutiny increases. Few government laws survive a Strict Scrutiny test since they are generally far broader than need be.
The argument for the use of Strict Scrutiny review of Second Amendment cases has been going on for years. Government agencies don’t like that because it severely restricts their regulatory powers, something most of us would argue is appropriate in a case involving the Bill of Rights.
For the next step, the 11-member en banc panel to hear this will be randomly drawn from the Nineth Circuit Court of Appeals. While there has been significant progress in helping to balance the court with justices appointed by the current Presidential administration, it still has a 16 to 13 liberal slant. Of course, that ANY judge should be considered liberal vs. conservative is absolutely asinine. The law, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights should be interpreted by every judge each and every time WITHOUT regard for political party platforms, but that’s a topic for another time. For this case, the outcome will likely be decided by the draw instead of the legal arguments in the case.
Why is this case important? A successful appeal by the State reverses the initial District Court ruling and magazines with a capacity higher than 10 rounds are once again illegal in California. The only hope for a reversal comes from the United States Supreme Court which has not been willing to hear Second Amendment cases.
In the unlikely event of Duncan being upheld, the State will have to decide if it wants to risk an unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court where it has the potential to impact magazine bans around the country or find another way to restrict them in California.
However, in my opinion the most important thing this case points out is the importance of our local and state elections. Laws like this are enacted by the people we elect to office. When we elect gun control politicians, we enable them to restrict our Second Amendment protected rights and the only recourse we have is to have them overturned in the courts.
And guess what, you and I are paying for both sides of this fight. Our taxes pay for the lawyers to defend the laws that take away our rights and our dues and donations pay for the lawyers to try to get them back. The only ones who win regardless of the outcome are the lawyers.
It’s a fool’s errand to believe that once a law has been enacted, it can successfully be drawn back. Of the thousands of gun control laws passed around the country, precious few are successfully appealed and reversed. The best way – the ONLY way to stop them is to prevent them from being enacted in the first place. And the only one who can do that is you.
Vote wisely this year.
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