Attorney General James Takes Action To Defend State Ban On Large-Capacity Magazines  

Joins Coalition to Protect States’ Rights to Adopt Gun Safety Laws

NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James today joined a group of 18 attorneys general to defend Vermont’s right to ban large-capacity magazines and protect public safety. In an amicus brief filed in the Vermont Supreme Court, the coalition argues that states have the right to enact reasonable firearm restrictions that reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by gun violence.

“There is simply no reason for any civilian to have access to such extreme firepower,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “In New York, we restricted large-capacity magazines because they put our communities at great risk and we have a responsibility and a right to protect our residents. We will do everything in our power to uphold these critical and commonsense public safety measures and prevent gun violence.”

The states filed an amicus brief in State of Vermont v. Max B. Misch, a suit in which the Vermont Supreme Court will determine whether Vermont’s prohibition on large-capacity magazines violates the Vermont Constitution’s right to bear arms. In 2018, Vermont prohibited the manufacture, importation, possession, and sale of large-capacity magazines, with some exceptions, including for magazines lawfully possessed before the law went into effect. The law bans magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition for long guns and more than 15 rounds for handguns. New York, seven other states, and the District of Columbia have enacted similar prohibitions. The constitutionality of those laws has been consistently upheld by federal courts of appeals under the Second Amendment, which the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized as “analogous” to Vermont’s right-to-bear-arms provision.

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

  • The right to bear arms 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 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. Because there are local and regional differences that contribute to gun violence, deciding how best to protect the safety of state residents is a question better suited to legislatures than 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. Restricting large-capacity magazines means a mass shooter must reload or switch weapons, giving bystanders more opportunities to flee, take shelter, or intervene. At the same time, there is no proof that large-capacity magazines are necessary—or even commonly used—for self-defense.

Joining New York Attorney General Letitia James and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine in filing this brief are the attorney generals of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.