Calif. Gunowners Call Magazine Ban Unconstitutional

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Gun enthusiasts on Friday filed a federal challenge to one of California’s recently signed “gunpocalypse” bills, with four civil rights groups and seven individuals claiming the ban on the possession of high-capacity magazines violates their Second Amendment rights.

The measure, Senate Bill 1446, is one of several gun-related bills passed by the California Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last year. While lawmakers in 1999 prohibited the sale, manufacture or importation of high-capacity ammunition magazines – but let those who owned them before that point keep them – SB 1446 will force gunowners who possess “grandfathered” magazines to turn them in for destruction or face legal consequences when it takes effect July 1.

“As a part of the legislative compromise associated with that original ban, owners of those grandfathered magazines were specifically exempt from the law,” plaintiffs’ attorney George M. Lee said in a statement. “The Legislature is basically reneging on that deal made many years ago.”

CalGuns Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation and the Second Amendment Foundation brought the legal challenge along with seven individuals, including veterans and a retired police officer. The lawsuit names state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Acting Chief Director of the Department of Justice Martha Supernor as defendants.

The magazine is “an intrinsic part of all semi-automatic firearms” and “are not merely individual pieces of personal property, but rather, are intrinsic and inherent constitutionally protected parts of constitutionally protected firearms,” the lawsuit states. This is because many firearms, particularly common handguns designed for self-defense, were originally sold with high-capacity magazines, and in some cases have no factory or aftermarket option for reduced capacity, according to the plaintiffs.

Beyond the Second Amendment challenge, the lawsuit seeks to address what the plaintiffs say is an unconstitutional confiscation of privately held property without due process as protected by the Fifth and 14th Amendments.

“California’s magazine ban laws violate the constitutional rights of law-abiding people in many ways,” Lee said. “Not only does the ban infringe on Second Amendment rights, but it is clearly now a taking of private property. In fact, as we contend in the complaint, it amounts to a de facto confiscation.”

“The state of California’s ban scheme stands for the proposition that most any personal property can simply be taken away from you or forced out of your possession without due process or just compensation by legislative fiat,” CalGun Foundation chairman Gene Hoffman said in a statement. “Today it’s firearm magazines, but tomorrow it will most certainly be some other constitutionally protected private property.”

The lawsuit challenges the law as vague, specifically as to the options available to owners of high-capacity magazines. In a “Finding of Emergency” document issued in December 2016, the state Department of Justice admits that hundreds of thousands of high-capacity magazines likely exist in the state, but that surrender for destruction is the only option. Some estimates put the number of high-capacity magazines in the tens of millions. For many owners, surrendering the magazines will result in significant financial loss and potentially render otherwise legal firearms useless.

“As we state in our lawsuit, this magazine ban fails to provide fair or even adequate notice to law-abiding gun owners of what they may do with their personal property without being subject to criminal sanctions,” Second Amendment Foundation founder and executive vice president Alan M. Gottlieb said. “In effect, this ban amounts to a backdoor form of confiscation, in part, of bearable arms that are protected by the Constitution.”

The plaintiffs seek a finding that the law violates the Second, Fifth and 14th Amendments, that it is unconstitutionally vague and that state officials cannot enforce it as passed and signed.

Lee is with the law firm Seiler Epstein Ziegler & Applegate in San Francisco.

The attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.


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