California Gun Owners Catch a Break


By Jeff Knox


A federal judge has granted a temporary injunction halting enforcement of California’s new law which criminalizes possession of any “large-capacity” magazine, defined as any magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds.  The law, which was approved by voters as part of a massive gun control initiative last year, was due to go into effect on July 1, but a group of California gun owners led by the California Rifle and Pistol Association, the state’s NRA affiliate, filed suit in federal court in May challenging the law for violating rights guaranteed under the Second and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.  The preliminary injunction does not nullify the law, but prevents it from being enforced while the case works its way through the courts.

So called “large-capacity” magazines have been banned from sale or transfer in California since 2000, but people who already owned them were able to legally keep them.  Under the new law, current owners of the magazines would be required to get rid of them, either by selling them to a licensed dealer, taking them out of state, destroying them, or turning them over to law enforcement without compensation.  Once the law takes effect, anyone in possession of a magazine capable of holding over 10 rounds in the state would be a criminal, subject to fines and up to a year in jail.

This is exactly the sort of confiscation law that gun control advocates routinely insist that they are not trying to enact, and it is exactly the sort of thing rights advocates have been warning about for decades.  As we at The Firearms Coalition have repeatedly said, the long-term objective of the leading proponents of gun control is the criminalization and confiscation of all privately held firearms, and the “minor,” “reasonable,” and “common sense” laws that they manage to push through here and there are merely incremental steps toward that goal.  They are never satisfied, and they will always come back for another bite at the apple.

The fact that gun control does not, cannot and will never reduce crime actually plays to their objectives, because once they have a law on the books, and people have become accustomed to it, they are able to come back with the same arguments and statistics on “gun violence,” and claim that another more restrictive law is needed.  We’ve seen this strategy play out in England and Australia, and closer to home in New York, New Jersey, and California.

So the good news is that thousands of Californians didn’t suddenly turn into criminals on July first.  The bad news is that the injunction can be appealed, and probably will be, in an attempt to start getting these “dangerous magazines” off the streets as quickly as possible, just in case the plaintiffs eventually win their suit and get the law overturned.  And of course, there is no shortage of radical, anti-rights judges in the state or on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The judge who issued the injunction, Roger Benitez, is something of an anomaly in California.  Born in Cuba, Benitez’s family immigrated to the U.S. when he was young. They settled in California where he attended college and law school, and served as a judge in the Superior Court of California before being appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush.  His 66-page injunction is an amazing read, full of quotes to delight any lover of liberty.  His wit and dry sense of humor are sprinkled throughout, tearing down the straw arguments of the statists, and pulling from the best of previous opinions and dissents.  Taking a few minutes and read the full work would be time well spent. For a quick synopsis of the ruling, check out Adam Kraut’s short video on YouTube.

Unfortunately, we have been here before.  We’ve seen wonderful opinions from noble jurists in California and elsewhere, quoting the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent, and delivering crushing blows to inane gun control schemes, only to see their brilliant logic and unassailable reason swept aside by appeals court judges who are willing to bend the law and rational thought into a pretzel to serve a different agenda.  If the pattern holds, the Supreme Court will simply shrug its collective shoulders and refuse to even give the case a hearing, as we saw once again recently when the Peruta case was denied certiorari.  That heartbreaking case, like this one, was handled by attorney Chuck Michel.  It was good to see him win this temporary victory after the crushing disappointment of having Peruta turned down by SCOTUS.

We will certainly be hearing more about this case, known as Duncan v. Becerra, in the near future.  Either Mr. Becerra, California’s new Attorney General, will appeal the injunction, and we’ll see what the ever-creative 9th Circuit can do with Judge Benitez’s conclusions, or we’ll see the case tried and decided before landing in the 9th Circus.

Who knows how long any of this will take, but hopefully the people of California will be able to hold onto their magazines while the courts and lawyers are doing their dance.  If not, maybe we can arrange for some storage space in Arizona and Nevada border towns to safely stockpile these people’s constitutionally protected property while they are awaiting a final resolution.

Whatever happens, we’ll keep you posted.