Duncan v. Becerra and Wiese v. Becerra: Defending California’s Magazine Capacity Limits
UPDATE — On March 29, 2019, the district court sided with the NRA in an extreme and unprecedented opinion finding that California’s restrictions on LCM manufacturing, importation, transfer, sale, and possession violate the Second Amendment; the court issued an injunction blocking these provisions. The district court’s injunction order is an extreme outlier that contradicts decisions reached by six federal appellate courts. The state of California immediately appealed the injunction, and on April 4, 2019, the district judge stayed his own injunction order in part, allowing California to continue to enforce the ban on the manufacture, sale, and transfer of large-capacity magazines pending the state’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit. However, California’s ban on the possession of large-capacity magazines remains on hold pending an appellate decision from the Ninth Circuit.
Case Information: Duncan et al. v. Becerra, No. 17-1017 (Southern District of California brief filed June 5, 2017); and Wiese et al. v. Becerra, No. 17-cv-00903 (Eastern District of California brief filed June 23, 2017).
At Issue: Last November, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 63, a package of smart gun laws drafted by the Law Center in partnership with California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. One of Prop. 63’s reforms will close a loophole in the state’s gun laws, by generally prohibiting the possession of large capacity magazines (LCMs) capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. As Prop. 63’s effective date approached, gun lobby groups made a last-minute attempt to block implementation of the voter-approved measure, filing two lawsuits arguing that California’s LCM restrictions violate the Constitution.
The Law Center’s Briefs: We filed amicus briefs in both cases explaining the critical need to close the LCM possession loophole and halt proliferation and use of military-grade magazines by mass shooters and other criminals. We argue that the Second Amendment does not protect magazines that are unnecessary for self-defense and the favored tool of mass killers, including those who carried out the rampages at Sandy Hook and Pulse nightclub. These shooters were able to murder more people because LCMs enable firing up to 100 bullets before it is necessary to reload—a critical pause when many rampage shooters are stopped. We explain that for this reason, LCMs are highly lethal accessories, not protected “arms,” but even if they are arms, the Second Amendment permits prohibiting them because there is overwhelming evidence that LCMs are “dangerous and unusual” and historically restricted, and best suited for military combat rather than civilian self-defense.