By J. D. Heyes
Well, that didn’t last long.
After a federal judge ruled last week that California’s ban on “high-capacity” firearms magazines was an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment’s ‘infringement’ clause, he has now reversed his earlier reversal.
U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of the Ninth Circuit initially ruled in favor of plaintiffs who sued California over its ban against magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. In his ruling, Benitez wrote, “Individual liberty and freedom are not outmoded concepts.” He further quoted one of the Democratic Left’s giants, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, who said during Judge Robert Bork’s confirmation hearing, “The Judiciary is – and is often the only – protector of individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.”
Mind you, America wasn’t founded as a “democracy,” our country was founded as a representative republic – and that’s not just semantics. Terms matter here because the meaning of them, and the constitutional jurisprudence behind them, matter.
We believed that Benitez was spot-on in his first ruling, which resulted in a permanent injunction against the Golden State. But he’s now reversed that ruling after hearing from the California Department of Justice in an emergency capacity, which sought to have Benitez’s initial stay against enforcement of the ban lifted while the case remained on appeal.
And that’s what he did.
Following Benitez’s initial stay of the California ban in late March, companies that make 30-round magazines experienced massive sales increases, which is what led state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to file an emergency appeal.
As we reported:
In the aftermath of a recent federal court ruling striking down as unconstitutional a California law limiting gun magazines to 10 rounds, firearms owners throughout the state have flooded suppliers with purchases.
Following the ruling, many online gun suppliers began selling magazines of all sizes to gun owners in California. One of them, Rainier Arms, has seen purchases of its Magpul Gen2 30-round AR-15-style magazines soar to the point that the sales/payment processing server went down for a time, Ammoland reported.
“We received such an overwhelming surge of sales over the weekend, it actually crashed our merchant services, the website was fine, but our payment services were so overwhelmed it crashed,” said Aristotle Bartolome of Rainier Arms, the gun news site reported.
“With that said, we closed out a very strong weekend, and even with the chaos, we’re currently 48 hours behind on getting all of the weekend orders caught up and adjusting staffing to better support our customers getting their orders quicker.”
Another retailer, Brownells, also reports they are selling magazines like crazy to California buyers. More to the point, the company says that buyers in the Golden State appear to be “stocking up” on AR-15 magazines especially (Brownells is one of the biggest firearms and gun suppliers online).
The buying spree represented far too much individual liberty and freedom from the Left-wing gun controllers in California.
The Constitution is a limit on government, not individuals
What is at issue here is little more than a difference of opinion as to what constitutes a “high capacity” gun magazine.
To California, ‘high capacity’ is any magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds. But to gun owners and gun manufacturers, 30-round magazines are “standard” in many rifle models and, thus, are considered ‘normal capacity magazines.’
Beyond this difference of opinion, however, is the constitutional issue of whether banning gun magazines that can hold a certain number of bullets amounts to an ‘infringement’ on a California gun owner’s Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms.”
Thirty-round magazines are not at all unique or uncommon to certain types of semi-automatic rifles that are otherwise perfectly legal (and perfectly constitutional) to own, and Benitez’s initial ruling appears to have recognized that. When the founders included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights, it’s hard to imagine that they, and most other Americans living at the time, believed that firearms technology would remain static – that there would always be the single-shot musket rifle and pistol and only those firearms.
But whether they did or didn’t isn’t the issue: It’s whether firearm bans or bans of firearms components comprise an unconstitutional infringement on the right.
The NRA and others argue that it does, and it’s hard to dismiss their position out of hand, especially when you consider the founders’ viewpoints on the Constitution’s actual function, as spelled out by libertarian scholar and author Ayn Rand:
The Constitution is a limitation of the government, not on private individuals — that it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government — that it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizens’ protection against the government.
Rand’s view makes it clear that Benitez’s initial instinct to stay the enforcement of California’s magazine ban was the correct one; the judge sought to empower the individual, not government, by tossing out the ban.
One favorable outcome from the judge’s reversal of his reversal: While residents couldn’t buy any more 30-round magazines after 5 p.m. Friday, the magazines that gun owners currently possess or have bought in recent days won’t be subject to the ban, either.
We’ll see how this all plays out.
The National Sentinel also contributed to this report, a version of which was first published at NewsTarget.