Fans of high-capacity gun magazines, which allow shooters to get off hundreds of rounds quickly and efficiently, have lost twice in federal court challenges to laws passed by California cities that are tougher than the state’s clampdown in 2000. Now they’re going to take a shot in state court.
The California Rifle and Pistol Association and 30 county sheriffs from around the state sued Los Angeles (pdf) last week in L.A. County Superior Court to block an ordinance passed in July that goes beyond state prohibition of manufacturing, buying and selling magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Folks, with exceptions for law enforcement, museum collections, gunsmiths, entertainment productions and others, are not allowed to possess them within L.A. city limits. People who have the magazines must surrender them by November 18 and those who get caught violating the law a year after passage will be subject to misdemeanor prosecution.
Councilman Paul Krekorian said at the meeting where the council approved the law 12-0, “People who want to defend their families don’t need a 100-round drum magazine and an automatic weapon to do it.” New Jersey, New York, Hawaii and Washington, D.C. also ban possession of the high-capacity magazines.
Instead of making the failed argument that the law violates the Constitution’s Second Amendment, the plaintiffs will argue that the Los Angeles ordinance violates California law. When state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 23 in 1999, they blocked residents from obtaining the magazines, but grandfathered in people already in possession.
The lawsuit argues that is express state authorization for possession and cannot be overruled by a municipal law. “There are literally tens of thousands of these magazines in existence throughout California that can be legally owned—and current state law allows them to be possessed,” plaintiff and Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told the Los Angeles Times.
The lawsuit also complains that the ordinance presents a hardship to people traveling lawfully in California with the magazines who have to dodge Los Angeles and navigate what is becoming a confusing “patchwork quilt of laws.”
The text of the Los Angeles ordinance explains some of the thinking behind why lawmakers thought it important. “Although detachable large-capacity magazines are typically associated with machine guns or semi-automatic assault weapons, such devices are available for any semi-automatic firearm that accepts a detachable magazine, including semi-automatic handguns.”
The council also took issue with the efficiency of weapons using high-capacity magazines. “On average, shooters who use assault weapons and/or large-capacity magazines in mass shootings shoot 151 percent more people and kill 63 percent more people that shooters who do not use assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.”
The ordinance describes 17 deadly high-profile incidents since 1993 involving weapons with high-capacity magazines, including a gunman sporting half a dozen 30-round magazines who opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport in November 2013.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom announced on October 15 his intention to get a statewide initiative on the ballot that compels background checks for ammunition purchases and bans possession of high-capacity magazines.