The constitutional challenge to Sunnyvale’s law banning possession of large capacity ammunition magazines (more than 10 rounds) faced tough questions Monday from a federal appeals court but it is unclear how the court may rule.
The sale and manufacture of large capacity gun magazines has been prohibited in California since 2000, but actual possession is not barred by the state.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hearing arguments by opponents of the ban who say the law amounts to a complete ban on a category of firearms in violation of the Second Amendment. The appeal challenges denial of a preliminary injunction sought by the National Rifle Association to block enforcement of the law.
“To put the ordinance in context, it is an incremental regulation of the size of an ammunition canister,” argued Roger Thompson, attorney for the city of Sunnyvale. It is not a weapons ban, he said.
Erin Murphy, attorney for the Sunnyvale residents who wish to possess the prohibited magazines said in response to questions from Judge Johnny Rawlinson, “A much more tailored approach is for the city to target individuals who use [large capacity magazines,] rather than taking them out of the hands of all individuals,” such as using laws like felons in possession of firearms or requiring certain storage of the magazines.
Judge Rawlinson, as well as Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, returned to the issue of the scope of the law and whether it was at the core, or on the periphery of Second Amendment.
At one point Rawlinson said, “We have to look at how intense the burden is” on owners of the magazines.
Visiting Judge Barbara Lynn of Dallas, Texas, asked what evidence there is that a high capacity magazine kills more people than one with less than 10 rounds.
Thompson said in the 62 mass killings around the U.S. it is clear that larger magazines allowed the murder of more individuals, much faster. During the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut the killer had 30-round magazines, he said.
It was the Sandy Hook shootings that inspired the voter initiative, Measure C, to ban the large capacity magazines in Sunnyvale.
In March, anyone in Sunnyvale caught with a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition may be subject to a $1,000 fine, six months in jail, or both.
Leonard Fyock, 67, challenged the law in a suit filed by the National Rifle Association. His challenge was rejected by U.S. District Judge Ron Whyte in San Francisco and appealed to the 9th Circuit.
The NRA asked the 9th Circuit to stay enforcement of the law until the appeal could be heard but the appeals court refused and a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court faired no better. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who hears emergency appeals from the 9th Circuit declined to hear their plea.
Plenty of groups weighed in on both sides, including the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Gun Owners of Calif., Major Police Chiefs Association, Cleveland School Remembers, and the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Case: Fyock v. Sunnyvale, No. 14-15408
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