West Coast gun prohibitionists are probably delighted that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed a motion with the federal court for a stay in the ruling handed down Friday in the case of Duncan v. Becerra, which concluded that the state’s ban on large capacity firearm magazines is unconstitutional.
Becerra will be appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and if successful, the case could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Anti-gunners are breathing a little easier only because they think the ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, a George W. Bush appointee, can be overturned. To think otherwise would go against political correctness and the gun control agenda of eroding the Second Amendment.
Speaking of which, in the wake of last month’s failure by the legislature to adopt what many believe were extremist training requirements for Washington concealed pistol licenses, that state’s Department of Licensing revealed that March saw another spike in CPLs, bringing the total to 616,529 active licenses. That’s a jump of 3,615 CPLs over the number at the end of February, and a reverse of what had been a small decline in CPL numbers during that month.
Whatever their motivation, Washingtonians are continuing to obtain CPLs, which suggests the gun control rhetoric now being heard up and down the “Left Coast” may be losing momentum. While nobody wants criminals and crazy people to have guns, they also don’t want to be disarmed by the law, themselves.
And that sentiment may gain strength as more people read through Judge Benitez’ 86-page opinion. It contained this observation on Page 5: “People may cede liberty to their government in exchange for the promise of safety. Or government may gain compliance from its people by forcibly disarming all. In the United States, the Second Amendment takes the legislative experiment off the table. Regardless of current popularity, neither a legislature nor voters may trench on constitutional rights. An unconstitutional statute adopted by a dozen jurisdictions is no less unconstitutional by virtue of its popularity.”
This was in response to the passage of Proposition 63 in 2016. As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, that measure forced owners of large capacity magazines to get them out of the state, or give them up.
Rights, according to the judge, are not subject to a popular vote. That, say gun rights activists, should serve as a warning to the billionaire-backed, Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which thinks it can buy the Second Amendment and Article 1, Section 24 of the state constitution. The group has bankrolled and passed a trio of gun control measures since 2014, but the most recent one, Initiative 1639, is now the subject of a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. If the Benitez ruling stands, it could likely have an impact on challenges to any of the Washington initiatives.
There will be an effort to pass a ban on so-called “assault weapons” in Oregon next year. Possibly a similar effort would be mounted in Washington. The likely argument would be that such weapons are too dangerous to be in civilian hands.
Judge Benitez addressed that issue, on Page 21 of his ruling.
“Nothing in the Second Amendment makes lethality a factor to consider because a gun’s lethality, or dangerousness, is assumed. The Second Amendment does not exist to protect the right to bear down pillows and foam baseball bats. It protects guns and every gun is dangerous.”—Judge Roger Benitez
Much later in his ruling, Judge Benitez tackles yet another argument put forth by defenders of the large capacity magazine ban, that of “collateral damage” to innocent bystanders if, and when, a law-abiding citizen might be forced to fire in self-defense.
“It is worth noting,” Judge Benitez observes, “that in evaluating the strength of the government’s fear of bystander injury, the State has not identified one incident where a bystander was hurt from a citizen’s defensive gun use, much less a defensive use of a gun with a high capacity magazine. The worrisome scenario is improbable and hypothetical.”
If the Ninth Circuit does reverse Benitez, expect the plaintiffs to seek Supreme Court review. With its more conservative face, the high court may finally believe it is time to tackle Second Amendment issues and expand the legal landscape on this subject.