Sunnyvale can ban possession of gun magazines that carry more than 10 cartridges, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, rejecting gun advocates’ claims that enforcement of the measure violates the constitutional right of self-defense.
The ban was approved by nearly two-thirds of the South Bay community’s voters in November 2013, as part of Measure C, and took effect in March 2014. A month later, San Francisco began enforcing a similar ordinance passed by its Board of Supervisors. Gun owners also challenged that ordinance in federal court but dropped their case after a federal judge let the measure take effect.
California law prohibits the manufacture and sale of high-capacity gun magazines but does not forbid the possession of weapons legally purchased elsewhere, leaving that issue up to cities and counties. A federal ban on possessing high-capacity guns expired in 1994, and Congress has not renewed it.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that individuals have a right, under the Second Amendment, to possess handguns in their home for self-defense. Opponents of the Sunnyvale ordinance cited the high court’s statement that the Second Amendment covers weapons “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes,” and noted that millions of Americans own guns with large-capacity magazines.
But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a federal judge’s ruling that allowed the ordinance to take effect, said there was little evidence that the weapons were typically used or needed for self-defense.
City officials presented evidence that “large-capacity magazines are disproportionately used in mass shootings as well as crimes against law enforcement,” Judge Michael Hawkins said in the 3-0 ruling. He said the evidence also indicated that the use of those weapons “results in more gunshots fired, results in more gunshot wounds per victim, and increases the lethality of gunshot injuries.”