A federal judge in San Francisco today refused to block a new city law that bans possession of high-capacity gun magazines that hold more than 10 automatically reloading bullets.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup turned down a request by a group of retired police officers for a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law. The measure will now go into effect on April 7.
“The public interest favors immediate enforcement of the San Francisco ordinance,” Alsup wrote.
The San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association and four individuals, in a lawsuit filed on their behalf by the National Rifle Association, argued the law violated their constitutional Second Amendment right to bear arms.
But Alsup said that the law “does not destroy the right to self defense,” but rather provides a restriction that is justified by the city’s interests in promoting public safety and preventing gun violence.
Alsup said that evidence in case thus far indicates that law-abiding citizens rarely need more than 10 rounds for self-defense, while high-capacity magazines “allow mass killers to shoot more victims before reloading, multiplying the number of deaths.”
“One critical difference is that whereas the civilian defender rarely will exhaust the up-to-ten magazine, the mass murderer has every intention of firing every round possible and will exhaust the largest magazine available to him,” the judge wrote.
“On balance, more innocent lives will be saved by limiting the capacity of magazines than by allowing the previous regime of no limitation to continue,” Alsup said.
A spokesman for the law firm representing the plaintiffs said they will appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose office defended the law, said the ruling “powerfully affirms San Francisco’s rationale for enacting our common sense gun safety law.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court has been very clear that state and local governments are constitutionally entitled to enact reasonable firearms regulations, and that Second Amendment rights aren’t unlimited,” Herrera said.
A 2000 California law prohibits the manufacture, importation, sale, gift or loan of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. The San Francisco law goes a step further and bans possession of such magazines with the city, with a few exceptions, including one for law enforcement officers. The lawsuit challenged only the city law.
The San Francisco ordinance was passed last fall in response to several recent mass shootings where killers used high-capacity magazines, including the fatal shooting of 20 children and six adults by a mentally troubled man at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
Alsup noted that several other local and state governments have enacted similar bans on high-capacity magazines in the wake of the shootings, and those measures have been upheld by federal trial courts in Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Washington, D.C.
The retired police officers’ lawsuit is one of a series filed around the nation by the NRA to test the scope of a landmark 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment.
In that decision, the high court said the constitutional right to bear arms extends to individual gun possession. It said law-abiding citizens have a right to possess guns for use in “in defense of hearth and home,” but said that some limits are permissible.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News