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Hanson v. D.C.

Supporting D.C.’s regulation of large-capacity magazines.

Case Information: Hanson v. the District of Columbia, No. 22-cv-2256 (United States District Court for the District of Columbia, brief filed November 30, 2022)

At Issue: The District of Columbia prohibits certain large-capacity magazines capable of accepting more than ten rounds of ammunition. A group of concealed carry licensees who live in the D.C. area and own large-capacity magazines (LCMs) challenged this prohibition, claiming it violates their Second Amendment rights because they might need their LCMs to defend themselves while in the District. The plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction, asking the Court to prevent the District from enforcing its LCM regulation pending a final decision in the case.

Our Brief: With Brady and March for Our Lives, we support the regulation of large-capacity magazines and urge the court to deny plaintiffs’ application for a preliminary injunction. We argue that restricting LCMs does not violate the Second Amendment because, applying the standard for reviewing gun safety laws articulated by the Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, it is a “reasonable, well defined” restriction with relevant similarities to historical laws.  

As the Bruen Court explained, gun safety laws are permissible if they set objective standards and can be analogized to historical gun laws through analogical reasoning, an approach that examines the “hows” and “whys” of modern and historical gun regulations to determine if they are part of the nation’s history and tradition.  This analysis recognizes that “dramatic technological changes” require a “more nuanced approach” to judicial review of firearms regulations.

Not only are LCMs unnecessary for law-abiding citizens to arm and lawfully defend themselves, they represent a “dramatic technological change,” posing a risk of far greater carnage than was possible during the Founding Era. Our brief discusses early, experimental multi-shot firearms identified by plaintiffs and shows that no firearm capable of firing more than ten rounds without reloading was in widespread civilian use before the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification. Once firearms capable of firing repeatedly without reloading became more widely used, states began passing laws limiting access to these weapons. The District’s LCM regulation is consistent with nearly a century of these laws, which placed restrictions on weapons with significantly less power, range, and capacity than the products of modern firearms technology. As these historical laws reflect, reasonable restrictions on multi-shot weaponry are not undue burdens on any right of armed self-defense, but are intended to reduce the carnage that too often results from the ability to fire many rounds repeatedly without pausing to reload.

The balance between the public safety concerns motivating the District’s regulation and the degree of its restrictions aligns with the balance struck by earlier generations. For these reasons, we argue that the Court should deny a preliminary injunction.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.


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