Are 10 bullets enough for self-defense? California's tough gun laws left hanging in legal limbo
California's strict gun laws have been landed in jeopardy after a judge threw out the decades-old ban on high-capacity magazines, sparking a "buying frenzy," a new ban and another court battle.
US District Judge Roger Benitez ordered a halt to the sale of magazines holding more than 10 rounds in California until the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether to reinstate the state's ban on them.
The 'window' for buying magazines opened last week when the same judge overturned some of the state's tough gun control laws. The media reported a "buying frenzy" of high-capacity magazines during that brief time period, with manufacturers and suppliers promoting discounts and urging everyone to buy 17-round and 30-round clips. This led the state's attorney general to warn that companies were trying to "flood" the market with previously illegal pieces of firearms.
California banned selling and buying high-capacity magazines in 2000 but people were allowed to keep the ones they already had. This continued until 2016 when Californians approved the ballot initiative 'Proposal 63,' which outlawed the possession of such magazines as well. The new measure was prompted by the San Bernardino shooting that happened a year before, claiming the lives of 14 people.
On March 29, Judge Benitez effectively struck down both laws, arguing that the prohibition on owning high-capacity magazines "hits at the center" of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees citizens' rights to keep and bear arms.
Few would say that a 100- or 50-round rifle magazine in the hands of a murderer is a good idea. Yet, the 'solution' for preventing a mass shooting exacts a high toll on the everyday freedom of ordinary law-abiding citizens.
In his ruling, the judge cited several instances when women ran out of bullets while fending off home invaders. In one case, a woman was shot by an intruder after she emptied the clip of her pistol and couldn't reload. During another break-in, a pajama-clad woman was facing three armed burglars. She "had no place to carry an extra magazine" and couldn't reload because she was holding a phone in her left hand, trying to call 911, Benitez wrote.
The ruling delivered a blow to California's gun laws, which were regarded as the strictest in the US. The decision also once again polarized the both sides of the ongoing debate over gun control.
Ari Freilich of the Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said that the judge's opinion was "not normal," and called some of his arguments "absurd and dangerous."
"That's just not where the country is," Freilich told the Sacramento Bee, adding that the judge's decision may pave the way for the legalization of military-grade weapons.
Gun rights advocates welcomed the ruling. The National Rifle Association (NRA), which filed the lawsuit, praised it as a "huge win for gun owners" and "one of the strongest judicial statements" in favor of the right to bear arms.
Gun control remains a hot-button issue in the US. Fierce debates around it have been reignited after last year's school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and the recent attack on two mosques in New Zealand.
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