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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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New Jersey 10-Round Ammo Limit Passes First Court Hurdle

A gun group wasted no time filing an appeal Friday after its challenge to new New Jersey limits on large-capacity magazines failed to secure an injunction.

TRENTON, N.J. (CN) – A gun group headed straight to the Third Circuit on Friday after a federal judge declined to put a hold on a new New Jersey law forbidding more than 10 rounds of ammunition in a large-capacity magazine.

Turning down a bid for injunctive relief, U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan concluded that the new law is “reasonably tailored” to curtail mass shootings and “passes constitutional muster.”

Enacted just this past June, the law known as Act A2761 redefines large-capacity gun magazines, which are illegal in the state.

Whereas the old law criminalized magazines holding more than 15 rounds, the new statute includes any firearm that holds more than 10 rounds of ammo. The law includes a 180-day grace period, set to end in December, for gun owners to turn in illegal magazines or permanently modify their magazines to hold fewer rounds.

The same day the law was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs filed suit in Trenton.

In denying that group an injunction on Friday, Sheridan emphasized that the law at issue “does not prevent ownership of any type of gun and does not restrict the quantity of ammunition a gun owner may possess.”

“It merely restricts the quantity of bullets a magazine may hold,” Sheridan added.

Before issuing the ruling, the court considered testimony from a New Jersey range master who argued that civilians would benefit from large-capacity magazines because they have lower hit rates. That same expert also noted, however, that civilians rarely use more than 10 rounds in self-defense.

Other experts testified that limiting gun magazines would have little effect on homicides or mass shootings but would impair a person’s ability to defend against a criminal attack. In support of this claim, they noted that criminals could still buy large-capacity magazines in other states and bring them into New Jersey.

Sheridan wrote that the new law “need not be perfect.”

Since the test is for the law to fit within the government’s purpose, Sheridan said that “simply because the challenged ban does not complete solve a problem, here being mass shooting, does not render it unconstitutional.”

New Jersey legislators moved quickly to usher in the new legislation after this winter’s mass shooting at Marjory Douglas High School in Florida, which left 17 people dead.

The final version of the bill passed in early June, but it was not without its hiccups, including botched regulatory language that could have applied to active police officers. Weeks later state legislators passed legislation clarifying the regulatory language to exempt active and off-duty and retired police officers.

Several other states, including California, Connecticut and Colorado, have restricted magazine capacity to 10 rounds or less. Other states, such as New York, have even stricter magazine limits.

Firearms instructor Blake Ellman and former Marine Alexander Dembowsk, who are also plaintiffs in the complaint, have claimed the law’s carve-outs for retired police officers is unfair and that similar carve-outs should have at the very least been made for former military.

Sheridan found, however, that retired police officers face special threats, and that military servicepersons do not usually receive the same level of extensive handgun training.

The Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs filed their notice of appeal Friday, noting in a statement online that Sheridan used an “improperly low constitutional standard.”

“The law that is being challenged will be ignored by criminals, makes no one safer, and makes law-abiding citizens less safe,” said Scott Bach, the association's executive director. “We intend to pursue this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.”

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Categories / Appeals, Civil Rights, Government

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