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Court Pauses CA ‘High-Capacity’ Magazine Ban – Case Headed to SCOTUS

The seemingly never-ending saga of California’s “high-capacity” magazine ban took another twist this week. The December 20th ruling didn’t decide the fate of the California law, but we are closer than ever to a resolution.

high capacity AR 15 MAGAZINE

It’s worth giving a brief timeline of events related to this law and how we got to this point.

Timeline of California’s magazine limit restrictions —

  • In 2000 California made it illegal to purchase or sell magazines that accepted 10 rounds or more. The media refer to these magazines as “high-capacity.” However, the term is entirely arbitrary.
  • In 2016 California made possession of a magazine capable of accepting more than 10 rounds illegal. Immediately some individuals and the California Rifle and Pistol Association challenged both laws in the case known as CRPA v Bonta (Bonta being the California Attorney General at the time).
  • In July of 2017, District Court Judge Robert Benitez ruled that the magazine ban was unconstitutional.
  • One year later, in July of 2018, a 3-judge panel of the 9th Circut Court of Appeals upholds Benitez’s ruling.
  • In March of 2019, Judge Benitez ruled that both the law banning importation or purchase of “high capacity” magazines and the law prohibiting their possession are unconstitutional.

For about a week, Californians enjoy the freedoms many other Americans take for granted. That is the ability to purchase a magazine that held over 10 rounds. The California Rifle and Pistol Association estimated Californians’ number of magazines purchased during this week at anywhere between “hundreds of thousands, if not millions.”

high capacity magazine

  • “Freedom Week” comes to an end when the state successfully appeals the Benitez ruling, temporarily reinstating the law as it headed to the 9th Circut Court.
  • The court upholds Benitez’s ruling, agreeing that the magazine ban was unconstitutional in August 2020.
  • Then in November of 2021, an en banc panel of judges in the 9th Circut agreed to rule on the case. The panel rules the magazine ban is constitutional and should be put back in place.

That brings us to the present time —

  • Upon the court’s ruling to reinstate the magazine ban, CRPA filed a motion to stay or put a hold on reinstating the law to allow the organization to file an appeal to the highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court.

The 9th Circut granted the request to hold implementation of the law for a period of 150 days stating:Appellees’ unopposed motion to partially stay issuance of the mandate, Docket No. 192, is GRANTED. The mandate is partially stayed for a period of 150 days from the date of this order. If Appellees file a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court during the period of partial stay, the partial stay shall continue until final disposition by the Supreme Court.

Where does that leave us —

Right now, essentially, it is status quo. Those who lawfully own the “high-capacity” magazines can continue to possess them until the case’s final disposition.

The Supreme Court is hearing several cases with significant ramifications. One such case is New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen.

This case addresses New York’s stringent gun law that requires a person show “proper cause” to carry a gun outside their home.

crpa gun case

Why this matters outside of California —

Supreme Court rulings have implications across the country instead of a ruling by the court of a particular district. While a Supreme Court decision could be narrowly applicable to a specific state’s laws, both cases seem to apply to laws across the country directly. This means it matters to gun owners of all states. If the Supreme Court rules such restrictions are permissible, other states will indeed move to enact gun control laws similar to California and New York.

Stay engaged at the local level with pro-gun organizations willing to fight the legal battles for which they are best equipped. Do not concede any gun control in an attempt to “meet in the middle.” The middle is not actually the middle. Gun control proponents have gone to the extremes and then asked gun rights groups to find common ground. In the end, gun owners concede rights that are quickly attacked again.

We are law-abiding gun owners who want to protect our rights. However, navigating the complex and carrying laws of each state is difficult. Therefore, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of the number one resource on the topic called Legal Boundaries by State. The book is available in digital or physical copy and goes way beyond simply providing a reciprocity map. Each state has a page dedicated to explaining the gun laws of that state and instructions on how to fly with your firearm or federal laws related to gun possession.

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