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AG Nessel Defends Vermont's Right to Ban Large-Capacity Magazines

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today joined 17 other Attorneys General to defend Vermont’s right to ban large-capacity magazines and protect public safety. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the Vermont Supreme Court, the Attorneys General argue that states have the right to enact reasonable firearm restrictions that reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by gun violence.

In August, Nessel joined a coalition of Attorneys General defending New York City in a similar fight urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling which held that states and localities can impose certain types of firearm regulations when they are substantially related to an important government objective, such as the protection of their residents.

“My colleagues and I have a duty to protect our residents from harm including gun violence and I am proud to join with my colleagues again to preserve the right for state and local governments to implement common-sense gun safety regulations,” said Nessel.

The latest brief was filed in State of Vermont v. Max B. Misch, a suit in which the Vermont Supreme Court will determine whether Vermont’s ban 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. The states of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, 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 similar to Vermont’s right to bear arms provision.

In their brief, the Attorneys General 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: 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: 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. The brief notes that because there are local and regional differences that contribute to gun violence, deciding how best to protect the safety of 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.

A copy of the brief is available here.

Nessel joins the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington in filing this brief.