Connecticut’s ban on ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10-rounds of ammunition is being challenged in court seven years after the law was first put in place following the Sandy Hook massacre. The Connecticut Citizens Defense League and the 2nd Amendment Foundation filed the lawsuit in federal court, arguing that the ban on commonly owned magazines violates both the right to keep and bear arms as well as the rights protected under the 14th Amendment.
From the Second Amendment Foundation:
“This law does nothing more than penalize law-abiding citizens while criminalizing components of handguns they own that were previously legal,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “This is a text book example of turning honest citizens into criminals by the mere stroke of a pen by the governor.
“Original capacity magazines are not dangerous or unusual,” he continued. “They’re in common use all over the country. But the Connecticut law makes it illegal to use such magazines, which amounts to a deprivation of rights under federal law. Neither SAF nor our partners at CCDL could stand by and allow that to happen.”
The two named plaintiffs in the case both own magazines that can hold more than ten rounds of ammunition, but under the 2013 law were allowed to maintain possession of the magazines as long as they didn’t load them with more than ten rounds. Seven years ago, that was a big achievement for gun control groups, though they’ve since modified their approach to one that simply bans the continued possession of magazines that can hold more than ten rounds. That’s what anti-gun advocates have put in place in New Jersey and California, and both of those laws are currently being challenged in federal court as well.
The argument for gun control advocates is simple; the smaller the size of a magazine, the less damage a killer can do before having to reload. But if that’s true, then that logic applies to those who need to use firearms for self defense as well. In fact, Dr. James Eric Dietz from Purdue University’s Homeland Security Institute joined me on Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co back in August of last year to talk about his research into magazine capacity as a self-defense enhancer.
Dietz used extensive computer modeling to simulate tens of thousands of home invasions and defensive reactions by an armed homeowner, and ultimately the data showed that the larger the magazine used by the homeowner, the greater their survivability of the encounter. Given the fact that criminals, by their very nature, aren’t going to hand in their illegal magazines, Connecticut’s ban ultimately has one deterrent effect: preventing legal gun owners from protecting themselves in the most effective way possible.
Looming over this case and all other 2nd Amendment litigation is New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, which was heard by the Supreme Court in December. A decision in that case is likely to come in June, and if the court doesn’t decide that New York City was able to moot the challenge to their gun control law by changing it, then the justices could hand down a decision that could have a direct impact on the Connecticut case. One of the things gun owners are hoping to see from the Supreme Court is clear guidance to the lower courts about what standard of review should be used to consider Second Amendment challenges.
For years, most courts have gone with “intermediate scrutiny,” a vague and fuzzy legal middle ground that’s allowed judges to uphold all kinds of gun control laws. If the Supreme Court states in NYSPRA v NYC that courts must use strict scrutiny, or the highest level of judicial review, then laws like Connecticut’s will have a much harder time surviving legal scrutiny. Strict scrutiny requires laws to be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government purpose, and that the law is the least restrictive means of doing so.
Connecticut’s argument would be that the compelling governmental interest is public safety, but they’d have a much harder time proving that requiring legal gun owners have no more than ten rounds of ammunition in their firearms is the least restrictive means of preventing violent criminals from shooting innocent people. As we’ve already pointed out, the law will impact legal gun owners far more than those own and use guns illicitly.
Let’s hope that by the time Ross v Mellekas gets to the supreme court, justices have already weighed in loud and clear that laws like Connecticut’s misguided magazine ban cannot withstand strict scrutiny. A decision in NYSPRA v NYC should come by early June, so we’ll likely know soon enough if Second Amendment supporters will have some new ammunition in the form of a Supreme Court opinion to help in their court fights going forward.