Federal judge once again rules unconstitutional California's ban on standard magazines with more than 10 rounds

September 24, 2023
Ben Marquis

A federal district judge has now for the second time struck down California's ban on standard-capacity firearm ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds as unconstitutional, according to Fox News.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez first ruled the state's ban on so-called "large-capacity magazines" or "LCMs" unconstitutional in 2017, though that ruling was ultimately reversed by the entire Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

However, following the U.S. Supreme Court's Bruen ruling in 2022 that established new guidelines for judging gun laws under the historical traditions of the Second Amendment, the Ninth Circuit's ruling was vacated and the case, now known as Duncan v. Bonta, was eventually remanded back down to the district court for reconsideration.

California's LCM ban again ruled unconstitutional

In a thorough and well-written 71-page ruling with ample explanatory footnotes and citations from Judge Benitez, he wrote, "This case is about a California state law that makes it a crime to keep and bear common firearm magazines typically possessed for lawful purposes. Based on the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, this law is clearly unconstitutional."

"There is no American tradition of limiting ammunition capacity and the 10-round limit has no historical pedigree and it is arbitrary and capricious. It is extreme," he continued. "Our federal government and most states impose no limits and in the states where limits are imposed, there is no consensus."

One by one, Judge Benitez proceeded to address and knock down each and every argument and justification California put forward in defense of its total and complete ban on even the simple possession of standard ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, of which it is estimated that there are hundreds of millions of such firearm accessories "in common use" throughout the nation.

Judge Benitez first determined that firearm magazines of any size are rightly considered to be "arms" that are protected by the Second Amendment and that they are most often used by citizens for the purpose of self-defense.

He also debunked a bogus and unverifiable study by a statistician who surmised that only 2.2 rounds are fired on average in a self-defense incident that California relied heavily upon to justify its 10-round limit, as well as the state's claim that magazines holding more than 10 rounds were somehow "dangerous and unusual" or "unusually dangerous," not to mention the ludicrous notion that arms useful for military service are not protected by the Second Amendment for civilian ownership and use.

Law has no historical analogs under Bruen standard

As for Bruen's requirement that modern gun laws must have historical twins or near analogs from the period between the nation's Founding in 1791 and the Reconstruction Era ending in 1888, the judge found that California was entirely unable to find any old laws that were anywhere close to being similar in nature or purpose to the state's current LCM ban.

Indeed, of the hundreds of old laws dug up by California to support its current ban, virtually all were dismissed as irrelevant or given little weight as they either fell outside the critical time period, dealt with bladed or blunt weapons and not firearms, were discriminatory and unconstitutional, were focused on concealed carry and unlawful use but not possession, or, in some cases, were gunpowder storage laws that were enacted for the purpose of preventing fires and not gun violence.

In fact, Judge Benitez found that the closest analogs to California's LCM ban were actually Founding Era laws that did the opposite, in that they required citizens to maintain a minimum amount of ammunition at all times for the purpose of possible militia service or self-defense, rather than impose limits on how much ammunition could be possessed or carried.

Ruling will be appealed by the attorney general; Gov. Newsom is really mad

"One government solution to a few mad men with guns is a law that makes into criminals responsible, law-abiding people wanting larger magazines simply to protect themselves," Judge Benitez concluded. "The history and tradition of the Second Amendment clearly supports state laws against the use or misuse of firearms with unlawful intent, but not the disarmament of the law-abiding citizen. That kind of a solution is an infringement on the Constitutional right of citizens to keep and bear arms."

"The adoption of the Second Amendment was a freedom calculus decided long ago by our first citizens who cherished individual freedom with its risks more than the subservient security of a British ruler or the smothering safety of domestic lawmakers," he added. "The freedom they fought for was worth fighting for then, and that freedom is entitled to be preserved still."

In once again declaring California's LCM ban to be unconstitutional, the judge imposed a 10-day stay of his ruling in order to allow time for California Attorney General Rob Bonta to file an appeal with the Ninth Circuit, which Bonta immediately announced that he would do while California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a furious statement to denounce Benitez by name and the "radical decision" he reached that rightly calls into question the state's other likely unconstitutional efforts to address "gun violence."

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