Judge Benitez held that standard capacity magazines like those affected by the ban are “arms” within the meaning of the Second Amendment. He further ruled that the law burdens the “core” Second Amendment right of possessing an arm commonly held by law-abiding citizens for defense of home, self, and state. The burden, he wrote, was “more than slight” and the ban was neither presumptively legal nor of long-standing pedigree. And even if the ban were subject to the more forgiving brand of “intermediate scrutiny” under which many gun control laws have been upheld, he found it would not be a reasonable fit with the state’s asserted purpose of public safety because it is squarely aimed at law-abiding persons.
Judge Benitez had some unusually sharp characterizations of California’s gun control laws. “The language used, the internally referenced provisions, the interplay among them, and the plethora of other gun regulations, have made the State’s magazine laws difficult to understand for all but the most learned experts,” he stated. “Too much complexity fails to give fair notice and violates due process,” he continued, noting that even the attorney for the State of California could not describe all of the magazine ban’s intricacies during the hearing. “Who could blame her?” he asked rhetorically. “The California matrix of gun control laws is among the harshest in the nation and are filled with criminal law traps for people of common intelligence who desire to obey the law.”
Judge Benitez also assailed the creeping incrementalism that retroactively seeks to punish facially harmless behavior by upstanding people who are acting in good faith. “Constitutional rights would become meaningless if states could obliterate them by enacting incrementally more burdensome restrictions while arguing that a reviewing court must evaluate each restriction by itself when determining constitutionality,” he wrote. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was exactly the complaint that the NRA and others had raised with the Ninth Circuit’s opinion the Supreme Court had earlier in the week declined to review. By focusing narrowly on the question of whether the Second Amendment was specifically meant to protect concealed carry, the Ninth Circuit had ignored the fact that California has foreclosed every option to lawfully bear arms for self-defense in public.
Judge Benitez framed the questions in Duncan case as whether a law-abiding, responsible citizen has “a right to defend his home from criminals using whatever common magazine size he or she judges best suits the situation” and “to keep and bear a common magazine useful for service in a militia.” He opined that “a final decision on the merits is likely to answer both questions ‘yes’… .“
Excerpt from my appearance before LA City Council arguing against similar limits on magazine capacity, because handguns are so underpowered even trained shooters under ideal (but real) conditions may need more than ten rounds in order to stop an attack by one person, let alone multiple attackers: