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En Banc Ninth Circuit to Hear First Case in Avalanche of Golden State Gun Reform Challenges

The Ninth Circuit is poised Tuesday to decide whether California’s ban on the weapon most frequently used in mass shootings is constitutional or if it violates the Second Amendment.

(CN) --- California’s ban on large capacity gun magazines which hold 10 or more rounds of ammunition --- weapons used in virtually all mass shootings --- hangs in the balance as an 11-judge en banc Ninth Circuit panel is poised to consider Tuesday whether the ban is constitutional or if it violates the Second Amendment.

The law at issue --- Proposition 63 --- was approved in 2016 by an overwhelming two-thirds majority of California voters who saw the large capacity magazine, or LCM, ban as the silver bullet to prevent casualties in mass shooting events.

Now gun reform advocates worry if the law is not upheld by the Ninth Circuit, California’s LCM ban will be the first in a slew of state gun reform laws to be hemorrhaged, as gun rights advocates lodge lawsuits up and down the state seeking to undo California’s gun laws.

The ban has already been struck down twice, by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez --- a George W. Bush appointee --- and a Ninth Circuit panel last summer.

In addition to Duncan v. Becerra, Benitez has been assigned several cases challenging California gun laws in the Southern District of California. Earlier this month he overturned California’s assault weapons ban, which Governor Gavin Newsom promptly appealed.

Proposition 63 sought to close what gun reform advocates consider a loophole by outlawing LCMs grandfathered in the state’s original LCM ban in 2000. Proposition 63 required LCM owners, regardless of when they acquired the firearm attachment, to either destroy it, sell it to a licensed firearm dealer, surrender it to a law enforcement agency or modify it to hold less than 10 rounds of ammunition.

California isn’t the only state to enact an LCM ban --- eight states and the District of Columbia all ban LCMs. Many of the laws were enacted in the wake of, or prior to, the expiration of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 2004 so states could continue to block people from possessing weapons used in mass shootings.

Esther Sanchez-Gomez, an attorney at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence told Courthouse News in an interview 70% of Americans support bans on large capacity magazines.

“States are always allowed to go beyond what the federal government has decided to do,” Sanchez-Gomez said.

She added: “Just because the federal government has acted, and then the federal ban on large capacity magazines is no longer in effect, that doesn’t affect California’s ability to also regulate and ban large capacity magazines.”

While Duncan v. Becerra has made its way through court, California’s enforcement of Proposition 63 as it applies to the possession of large capacity magazines has been paused, although gun owners are not allowed to import or purchase LCMs.

Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, a nonprofit Second Amendment lobbying group, said after Proposition 63 was enacted there was no indication people would be giving up their LCMs. He said all LCMs currently within California boundaries are legal.

“We had comments from law enforcement officials throughout the state of California that said ‘the last thing we want to happen is for people to come in with boxes of magazines into our police stations to turn them in,’” Paredes said.

He added: “We heard not a single case where a person destroyed or moved their magazines outside of the state.”

Follow Bianca Bruno on Twitter. Listen to the Sidebar podcast segment on California’s LCM ban.

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