Attorney General James Defends Ban Against Large-Capacity Magazines

Attorney General James Defends Ban Against Large-Capacity Magazines

Coalition of 18 AGs Argue that Second Amendment
Allows States to Adopt Gun Safety Laws

NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James, working with a group of 17 additional Attorneys General from across the nation, today defended California’s ban on large-capacity magazines (LCM) holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. In an amicus brief filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Attorneys General argue that states have the right to enact reasonable firearm restrictions that protect public safety and reduce the prevalence and lethality of gun violence.

“Large-capacity magazines threaten our communities and have no place in our stores, on our streets, or in our homes,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “These rapid-fire bullet delivery systems not only endanger the safety and well-being of New Yorkers, but all Americans, which is why we remain committed to upholding California’s longstanding, constitutional laws. We must never stop fighting to safeguard our communities from senseless, preventable gun violence.”

Attorney General James and the 17 other Attorneys General filed this amicus brief in Duncan v. Becerra, a lawsuit challenging California’s prohibition on large-capacity magazines. The lawsuit was filed by a group of gun owners and the California Rifle & Pistol Association, a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association (NRA), after the passage of California’s Proposition 63 in 2016.

Since 2000, the State of California has prohibited the manufacture, importation, and sale of large-capacity magazines. In 2016, both the California legislature and the California electorate — through Proposition 63 — went further and banned the possession of LCMs that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, in order to improve enforcement efforts and to further stem the proliferation of large-capacity magazines in the state. Nine other states — including New York — and the District of Columbia have also enacted laws banning large-capacity magazines. The constitutionality of those laws have been unanimously upheld by federal courts of appeals.

In April 2019, a lower court struck down California’s prohibition on large-capacity magazines in total. California has appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit and the ruling is currently stayed.

In this amicus brief, the states collectively argue that a ban on large-capacity magazines is a reasonable restriction that California has the right to adopt because:

  • The Second Amendment does not prevent states from enacting common-sense gun safety measures: The brief explains that states are entitled to adopt reasonable restrictions on firearms to address the unique conditions within their borders and protect public safety. Restricting access to large-capacity magazines is a reasonable restriction because it would reduce firearm injuries and deaths while leaving many other options open for individuals who wish to exercise their core Second Amendment right to self-defense.
  • States have a responsibility to prevent gun violence and protect public safety: The brief notes that states have primary responsibility for ensuring public safety. This includes a duty to reduce the likelihood that their citizens will fall victim to preventable firearm violence, and to minimize fatalities and injuries when that violence does occur. The brief notes that deciding how best to protect the safety of state residents is a question better suited to legislatures than to courts.
  • Regulating large-capacity magazines protects the public: The brief cites evidence that large-capacity magazines are especially attractive to mass shooters and criminals, posing increased risks to innocent civilians and law enforcement. At the same time, there is no proof that large-capacity magazines are necessary — or even commonly used — for self-defense.

In addition to filing today’s amicus brief, Attorney General James and the Office of the New York State Attorney General has consistently taken action to protect communities from gun violence. Attorney General James has continued the office’s gun buyback events taking 2,505 firearms to-date off the hands of New Yorkers. The office also cracked down on illegal trafficking of firearms across state lines so the safety of New Yorkers is not jeopardized by lenient gun laws in neighboring states. Additionally, the office developed Model Gun Show Procedures, a series of safety procedures for gun show operators in New York State, and announced new policies to help social media sites curb illegal sales of firearms on their platforms.

Joining Attorney General James in filing the amicus brief were the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.