Court: Bans on High-Capacity Magazines Are "Only the Most Minor Burden on the Second Amendment"


In 2013 the city of Sunnyvale, California enacted a ban on so-called high-capacity gun magazines. According to the new law, it was a criminal offense to possess any magazine holding more than 10 rounds, though exceptions to the ban were granted to certain privileged gun owners, such as "any retired peace officer holding a valid, current Carry Concealed Weapons (CCW) permit."

Several individuals soon filed suit in federal court, challenging the prohibition on Second Amendment grounds. Yesterday, those plaintiffs suffered their first setback when the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, refused to grant a preliminary injunction that would have stopped the city from enforcing the ban while the litigation moved forward.

Why? Because, the district court declared, "the right to possess magazines having a capacity to accept more than ten rounds lies on the periphery of the Second Amendment right, and proscribing such magazines is, at bare minimum, substantially related to an important government interest."

At the Volokh Conspiracy, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh largely concurs with that judgment, arguing that because high-capacity magazine bans do not impose a "substantial burden" on the Second Amendment right to self-defense, they are likely to pass constitutional muster. "Even if bans on magazines with more than 10 rounds are unwise," Volokh writes, "not all unwise restrictions are unconstitutional. That's true for speech restrictions. It's true for abortion restrictions. And I think it's true for gun restrictions as well."