Proposition 63 Proponents File Court Brief Defending Voter-Approved Ban on Large Capacity Magazines


SACRAMENTO - Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence yesterday jointly submitted a friend of the court brief in a case seeking to invalidate Proposition 63's ban on large capacity ammunition magazines. Lt. Governor Newsom, along with Giffords Law Center, were the authors and principal proponents of Proposition 63, which was overwhelmingly approved by California voters in November 2016. The case, Duncan v. Becerra, seeks to undo the will of California voters and strike down its restrictions on large capacity magazines.

"It's a tragic reality that as time passes, we are presented with more and more evidence on the devastating power of large capacity magazines, which are consistently the accessory of choice in mass shootings for mass murderers," said Lt. Governor Newsom. "Federal courts have repeatedly upheld bans and restrictions on large capacity magazines and I am confident that the court will ultimately rule that Proposition 63's ban on the possession large capacity magazines is constitutional."

"We are confident that the flawed decision to block California's new limits on large capacity magazines will be quickly overturned," said Hannah Shearer, Staff Attorney & Second Amendment Litigation Director, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence."Every other court to have considered magazine regulations, including four federal appeals courts, have rejected similar constitutional arguments and upheld sensible restrictions on these deadly accessories, which have been used in major mass shootings like the massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary, San Bernardino, the Pulse nightclub and Las Vegas. In the past two decades, California has strengthened its gun laws and cut the state's gun death rate by nearly 60%, transforming California from one of the most violent states in the nation to one of the safest. We expect these remarkable gains will continue when Proposition 63 is fully implemented."


In June, two federal judges in separate District Courts considered request to delay implementation of Proposition 63's large capacity magazine provisions, which were scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2017. The two judges reached opposite conclusions.

In Duncan v. Becerra, the case in which Lt. Gov. Newsom and Giffords Law Center filed their brief, a federal judge in San Diego ruled in favor of a temporary delay said California could not enforce the large capacity magazine ban until a final decision can be made.

By contrast, in a separate ruling, Judge William Shubb, a George H.W. Bush appointee based in Sacramento, rejected arguments against the magazine ban after thoroughly evaluating each of the gun lobby's arguments and explaining why they were likely to fail. Judge Shubb specifically noted that the loophole in California law that previously allowed for possession of large capacity magazines meant that "there was no way for law enforcement to determine which magazines were 'grandfathered' and which were illegally transferred or modified to accept more than 10 rounds[.]"

Judge Shubb noted that the stated objective of the large capacity magazine ban is to reduce the incidence and harm of mass shootings and observed that "there can be no serious argument that this is not a substantial government interest, especially in light of several recent high-profile mass shootings involving large-capacity magazines,"including the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting, the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, the 2011 Arizona shooting involving then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

Similar efforts to overturn large capacity magazine bans have been roundly rejected by federal appellate courts across the US, and the Ninth Circuit (with jurisdiction over California) recently rejected the gun lobby's efforts to enjoin Sunnyvale's local large capacity magazine ban. Though the gun lobby dropped that case before a final decision from the court, before they abandoned their meritless claims, the court rejected their motion to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of that large capacity magazine ordinance by noting evidence that the use of large capacity magazines "results in more gunshots fired, results in more gunshot wounds per victim, and increases the lethality of gunshot injuries." The court also cited evidence that these magazines "are disproportionately used in mass shootings as well as crimes against law enforcement" and that the city maintained a strong interest in protecting the public against their potential use.