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AG Nessel Joins Coalition AG Nessel Joins Coalition Supporting California's Ban on Large-Capacity Magazines

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today joined 17 attorneys general to defend California’s ban on large-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the coalition supports California’s petition for en banc review in Duncan v. Becerra, a case in which a divided three-judge panel struck down California’s ban. The brief argues that the Second Amendment allows states to enact reasonable firearm restrictions that protect public safety without infringing individuals’ core Second Amendment right to self-defense.

“As Attorneys General, my colleagues and I have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents,” said Nessel. “While Michigan doesn’t have a comparable statute on the books, it’s important that I join my colleagues in an effort to preserve the right for each state to implement common-sense public safety and firearm regulations.”

Since 2000, California has prohibited the manufacture, import and sale of large-capacity magazines. In 2016, to further stem the proliferation of large-capacity magazines, the California legislature and the California electorate passed Proposition 63 banning the possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Nine other states and the District of Columbia have also enacted laws banning large-capacity magazines. The constitutionality of those laws have been unanimously upheld by other federal courts of appeals.

The Duncan lawsuit was filed by a group of gun owners and the California Rifle & Pistol Association, a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association (NRA), after the passage of California’s Proposition 63. In April 2019, a lower court struck down California’s prohibition on large-capacity magazines. California appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit, and in August 2020, a divided three-judge panel affirmed the district court’s judgment. California sought en banc review, prompting the states’ amicus brief in support.

In the amicus brief, the states collectively urge the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case en banc and argue that California’s ban on large-capacity magazines is a reasonable and lawful restriction because: 

  • The Second Amendment permits states to enact common-sense gun safety measures: The brief explains that states are entitled to adopt reasonable restrictions on firearms to protect public safety. Restricting access to large-capacity magazines is a reasonable restriction because it reduces firearm injuries and deaths without infringing individuals’ core Second Amendment right to self-defense. 
  • States have a responsibility to prevent gun violence and protect public safety: The brief notes that 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 such violence occurs. Population density, economic conditions and the strength of local law enforcement all vary widely across the country, and all may have an impact on crime and effective crime-fighting efforts. The brief notes that deciding how best to protect the safety of state residents is a question better suited to legislatures than courts. 
  • Courts have allowed states to regulate large-capacity magazines to protect the public: The divided panel’s Second Amendment analysis breaks sharply from every other court of appeals and conflicts with Supreme Court precedent allowing states leeway to respond to gun violence within their borders.   

A copy of the brief is available here.

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