Federal Court Spanks California Over Magazine Capacity Limit

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Based on what I write, it’s hard for me to view California as anything but a synonym for gun control. It’s like the state has never met a gun control measure it didn’t like, putting forth the toughest gun laws in the nation. Gun laws, I might add, that haven’t prevented mass shootings or criminal activity.


Still, the state passes more gun laws.

Well, now, thanks to a lawsuit in federal court, it looks like California may end up with one less, and this one could have ramifications throughout the nation.

In one of the strongest judicial statements in favor of the Second Amendment to date, Judge Roger T. Benitez of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California determined on Friday that California’s ban on commonly possessed firearm magazines violates the Second Amendment.

The case is Duncan v. Becerra.

The NRA-supported case had already been up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on the question of whether the law’s enforcement should be suspended during proceedings on its constitutionality. Last July, a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit upheld Judge Benitez’s suspension of enforcement and sent the case back to him for further proceedings on the merits of the law itself.

Judge Benitez rendered his opinion late Friday afternoon and handed Second Amendment supporters a sweeping victory by completely invalidating California’s 10-round limit on magazine capacity. “Individual liberty and freedom are not outmoded concepts,” he declared.

In a scholarly and comprehensive opinion, Judge Benitez subjected the ban both to the constitutional analysis he argued was required by the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller and a more complicated and flexible test the Ninth Circuit has applied in prior Second Amendment cases.


Calling the decision “scholarly and comprehensive” is accurate, but not a complete picture. It was a piece of pro-Second Amendment legal artwork. That’s what it was. Seriously, it was a thing of beauty, and something I suspect will be cited numerous times in pro-gun cases moving forward.

Not only did Judge Benitez dismantle the limit on magazine capacity, but made a strong case against most other forms of gun control.

As a result, California is currently without a round-capacity limit.

Don’t expect the state to not try and take this higher. While the Ninth Circuit previously upheld Benitez’s suspension of enforcement, that doesn’t mean it won’t hear an appeal.

From a layman’s perspective, the good judge did an excellent job of laying out all the myriad reasons why the ban was unconstitutional. He didn’t rely on a single argument but instead slammed it from every conceivable angle. While I expect the state to try and appeal the decision, I don’t see where they’re going to be able to present grounds for such an appeal.

So what does this mean?

Well, for Californians, it looks like it’ll mean standard-capacity magazines for everyone.


For the rest of the nation, this sets the stage for magazine limits to land before the Supreme Court. If it’s not California taking it to that level, then someone else will, and Judge Benitez’s ruling lays some firm legal groundwork for the Court to consider.

In other words, Friday’s ruling wasn’t just a win for California, but a win for the Second Amendment.

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