RICHMOND (July 23, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a group of 18 state attorneys general to defend the ability of states like Virginia to enact reasonable gun safety laws that protect public safety and reduce the prevalence and lethality of gun violence. Virginia and partner states filed an amicus brief in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Duncan v. Becerra, a lawsuit filed by California gun owners and an NRA affiliate challenging California’s ban on high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
“Virginia and other states have the right, and I believe the responsibility, to enact commonsense, broadly supported gun safety laws that will save lives and reduce gun violence,” said Attorney General Herring. “I’m going to keep pushing for stronger gun safety laws in Virginia like universal background checks and a ban on high capacity magazines, and I’m going to fight in court to make sure we have the right to make those decisions for ourselves.”
Since 2000, the State of California has prohibited the manufacture, importation, and sale of large-capacity magazines. In 2016, both the California legislature and the California electorate through Proposition 63 banned the possession of LCMs that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition, in order to improve enforcement efforts and to further stem the proliferation of large-capacity magazines in the State. 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 federal courts of appeals.
In April 2019, a lower court struck down California’s prohibition on large-capacity magazines in total. California has appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit and the ruling is currently stayed.
In this amicus brief, the states collectively argue that a ban on large-capacity magazines is a reasonable restriction that Virginia and other states can choose to adopt because:
- 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. At the same time, there is no proof that large-capacity magazines are necessary—or even commonly used—for self-defense.
- The Second Amendment does not prevent states from enacting common-sense gun safety measures: The brief explains that 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.
- 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 that violence does occur. The brief notes that deciding how best to protect the safety of state residents is a question better suited to legislatures than courts.
The brief is available here.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine is leading today’s friend-of-the-court brief and is joined by Attorneys General from Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.