California's High-Capacity Magazine Ban Upheld, Gun Rights Groups to Appeal to SCOTUS

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California's ban on high-capacity magazines Tuesday, reversing a decision from two lower court judges who determined the restriction violates the U.S. Constitution's protection of the right to bear firearms, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, gun owners' rights groups are now looking to immediately bring the case to the more conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court.

Two judges from a smaller three-judge 9th Circuit panel ruled last year that California's ban on magazines holding more than 10 bullets violated the constitutional right to bear arms.

But according to the 9th Circuit Court's 7-4 decision on Tuesday, the high-capacity ban doesn't outlaw any weapons "but only limits the size of the magazine that may be used with firearms."

The majority of judges determined that "the record demonstrates that the limitation interferes only minimally with the core right of self-defense, as there is no evidence that anyone ever has been unable to defend his or her home and family due to the lack of a large-capacity magazine; and ... that the limitation saves lives."

Democratic presidents had appointed seven members of the 11-judge 9th Circuit panel. The U.S. Supreme Court asserted its conservative majority with the appointments of Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett during Republican Donald Trump's presidency.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

California High-Capacity Magazine Ban
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned two lower court judges and upheld California’s ban on high-capacity magazines Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in a split decision that may be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. Above, a variety of military-style semi-automatic rifles obtained during a buy-back program are displayed at Los Angeles police headquarters on Dec. 27, 2012. Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo

The three-judge panel had backed a 2017 ruling by San Diego-based U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez that declared unconstitutional a state law that since 2000 had prohibited buying or selling such magazines. That law barred new sales or imports but let those who had the magazines before then keep them.

The lower court ruling also barred the state from enforcing a voter-approved law that would have barred gun owners from possessing magazines holding more than 10 bullets.

Aside from the effect on high-capacity magazine laws in California and other states, the ruling helps to unjam a roadblock in other pending cases over the state's ban on assault weapons.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a leading group seeking firearms restrictions, said state officials' appeal of Benitez's ruling this year throwing out California's assault weapon restrictions was on hold while the 9th Circuit considered the ban on high-capacity magazines.

The assault weapons ruling is also on hold while the appeals court considers the same issues in a different case, where a different federal judge upheld the state's ban in 2018.

Aside from the merits of each case, the appeals court is weighing the legal standard that courts must consider in Second Amendment cases. Gunowners groups are hopeful that the recently more conservative U.S. Supreme Court will change the legal tests in their favor.

Potential SCOTUS Appeal
Gun owners' rights groups that have looked to present firearms cases before a more conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court pledged to seek to bring the California high-capacity magazine ban case to the high court. The U.S. Supreme Court is seen at dusk on November 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images