Federal appeals court upholds California’s ban on high-capacity magazines

A federal appeals court in California on Tuesday upheld the state’s ban on high-capacity magazines, reversing a lower-court ruling in which a federal judge in San Diego compared an AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army knife.

The 7-4 decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit says that the state’s restriction on the size of magazines that may be used with firearms only minimally interferes with the right to self-defense, and there is no evidence that anyone was unable to defend their home and family due to the lack of high-capacity magazines.

The court noted that in the past 50 years, high-capacity magazines have been used in about three-quarters of gun massacres with 10 or more deaths and in 100% of gun massacres with 20 or more deaths.

The judges added that more than twice as many people have been killed or injured in mass shootings that involved a high-capacity magazine compared to mass shootings that involved a smaller-capacity magazine.

“The ban on legal possession of large-capacity magazines reasonably supported California’s effort to reduce the devastating damage wrought by mass shootings,” the court said. “In sum, large-capacity magazines provide significant benefit to soldiers and criminals who wish to kill many people rapidly. But the magazines provide at most a minimal benefit for civilian, lawful purposes.”

The original case was filed by the California Rifle & Pistol Association and private gun owners.

“Today’s decision is a victory for public safety in California,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. “Gun violence is an epidemic in this country, but laws like our ban on large-capacity magazines are commonsense ways to prevent this violence, including devastating mass shootings.”

The ban outlaws high-capacity magazines which can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

According to a news release from Bonta’s office, these high-capacity magazines can “pose a substantial threat to the public and law enforcement because they allow shooters to fire scores of rounds from the same firearm in a short period of time without needing to reload.”

US District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego previously ruled that the assault weapons ban violates the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.

Benitez compared the AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army knife and said the ban deprives Californians of owning assault-style weapons commonly allowed in other states.

Bonta appealed the ruling and argued that the state’s restrictions on high-capacity magazines respect the public’s Second Amendment right while advancing the state’s interest in combating gun violence and reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by mass shootings.

“I’m thankful to the court for giving this case a second look, and confirming what we know to be true: our laws keep Californians safe while allowing law-abiding gun owners to exercise their constitutional rights,” Bonta added.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom applauded the decision in a tweet.

“Weapons of war don’t belong on our streets,” said Newsom. “This is a huge victory for the health and safety of all Californians.”

CNN has reached out to the California Rifle & Pistol Association for comment.

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