A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling Thursday that California’s requirement for background checks on all ammunition purchases can remain in place while the law is being challenged, overturning a district judge’s decision to block the background checks during the litigation.
“Second Amendment rights are not unlimited,” said the panel, which included Judge Daniel Collins, an appointee of President Trump. The other two judges, Jacqueline Nguyen and Barry Silverman, were appointed by Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Citing the court’s 2014 ruling upholding San Francisco’s ban on hollow-point bullets that explode or splinter on contact, the panel said the right to purchase ammunition, like the right to buy guns, can be subject to reasonable government restrictions.
The court also said the background-check requirement had been in effect more than nine months before Benitez ruled, and during that period Californians “could purchase ammunition lawfully and with minimal delay.”
It’s very disappointing to see this decision, especially with one of the judges being appointed by President Trump. While the panel pointed to the fact that the law has been on the books for nine months before Judge Robert Benitez put a halt to enforcement, the judges refused to accept Benitez’s rationale for waiting so long before granting an injunction: he wanted to give the law a chance to work. After months of delays and false denials for tens of thousands of Californians, however, Benitez ruled that the law was likely not going to be upheld at trial, and the injunction should be granted.
The brief order issued by the Ninth Circuit on Thursday doesn’t spend much time refuting Benitez’s argument point by point. Instead, the panel hearing the case seems to have rubber-stamped the state’s request to continue enforcement of the law at the expense of the rights of California residents. As Benitez noted in his ruling granting an injunction against the law, there have been tens of thousands of false denials that have prevented legal gun owners from lawfully acquiring ammunition, while only a handful of prohibited persons have been blocked by the law. The Ninth Circuit panel seemed intent on maintaining the status quo in the state, no matter how flawed the law itself or the impact that it’s already had on legal gun owner in the state.
The plaintiffs in Rhode v. Becerra could appeal the three-judge panel’s decision to a larger body of judges on the Ninth Circuit in an en banc request, so there’s still a chance that Benitez’s injunction could be put back in effect in the coming months. More importantly, the lawsuit challenging background checks on ammunition sales, as well as a ban on California residents purchasing ammunition out-of-state or online, will continue in Judge Benitez’s court.