[Summary] California Magazine Ban: Status & Top Quotes

On March 29, 2019, California gun owners were treated to an early Good Friday when Judge Roger Benitez ruled the state’s 10-round magazine ban was unconstitutional, and immediately prohibited the State from enforcing the ban.  

Not surprisingly, within a week, the ban was mostly put back in place.

CA Flag with bear arms
California state flag, now with bear arms!

So what does this mean for all those magazines you bought during the week that will forever be known as Freedom Week?  And what about the magazines you had already ordered but were still being shipped?

It’s a little complicated, but fortunately for you, we have a couple of attorneys on the staff here at Pew Pew Tactical, and they’ve broken down all the legalese into actual English for our readers.

Along with how we were even able to get a glimpse of freedom here in California, so you can stop reading about what that guy on Reddit thinks this all means and just check out our analysis below.    

Disclaimer:  While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice, and is for educational and entertainment purposes only.

TLDR

Let’s cut to the chase: when Judge Benitez issued his ruling, California Penal Code section 32310, better known as the “10-round magazine ban”, was declared unconstitutional, and the State of California was prohibited from enforcing the law.  

Live cam of California shooting ranges, May 30th, 2019.

In a nutshell, what section 32310 basically says is that it is illegal to make, buy, or receive “large-capacity magazines” in the State of California.  If there’s any confusion for you non-California readers, large-capacity magazines according to California is anything over 10 rounds. You know them better as “magazines”.

With the ban declared unconstitutional, it basically meant that as of the ruling on March 29, 2019, it became legal once again to make, buy, receive, sell, and do whatever else you want with any size magazine available, just like you would in a free state.  

buy buy buy

What about once the ban was put back in place then?  

About a week after the initial ruling that declared the magazine ban unconstitutional, Judge Benitez granted a partial stay (i.e. a pause) on his ruling.  Essentially, he agreed to temporarily put his decision on hold while the AG filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit.

Before you get all mopey, keep in mind it was only a partial stay.  What this means is that the original law was put back in place, but only the part about buying, making, and receiving “large-capacity magazines”.

The ban on grandfathered mags that were obtained before 2000 was still invalid, and so the grandfathered mags are still ok to have, even after this stay.

excited shaq  

The main takeaway that we can take some comfort in, is the fact that the other part of this partial stay said that people and businesses that made, imported, sold, or bought 10+ round magazines between March 29, 2019 and 5pm on April 5, 2019, are not affected by the (temporarily reinstated) magazine ban.  

All you need to worry about is meeting those requirements.  It doesn’t matter when the mags got to your house, how long the mags were in transit, or when you physically received them in your hands.  Any and all magazines you bought or made during Freedom Week is completely legal for you to own and use, and sleep naked with (just watch for the corners).

Basking in the Glory

Now that we’ve addressed the elephant in the room, we should look back on our brief week of glorious freedom.  For those short 7 days, the gun owners of California were able to buy magazines like actual residents of the United States, protected by the Second Amendment.  

Hopefully, you were able to buy, make, or receive standard-capacity magazines during this time, and already have them safely stowed away in your safe loaded to their 15-round, 17-round, or 30-round (or 60-round??) limits.  

It’s not every day you find a pro-2A, pro-Constitution judge in California, so we need to enjoy this victory while we can, short as it was.  

Within days of the ruling, the California Attorney General (AG) filed a request to stay the ruling, arguing that allowing people to buy magazines would harm the public.  

Something about too much freedom and allowing the normal citizenry to escape from under the thumb of tyrants.

Do something
California Governor, Attorney General, and Assistant Attorney General. -2019, colorized (probably)

While everyone is welcome (and encouraged!) to read the entire ruling (it’s a PDF), just in case you wanted to save that for an extra long stint on the toilet, we’ve provided you with a quick overview of the arguments presented by the State and the rulings against all of them that led to the decision by Judge Benitez.  

Don’t worry though, we took out all the legal jargon and picked a couple of gems from the ruling that show how the judge completely destroyed the arguments in support of the magazine ban.

Get your popcorn ready.

popcorn eating

How Do I Love freedom?  Let Me Count the Ways

First of all, if there was any doubt about whether Judge Benitez loves freedom and liberty, the very first sentence of his ruling should make it very clear:  

Individual liberty and freedom are not outmoded concepts...California citizens, like United States citizens everywhere, enjoy the right to defend themselves with a firearm.”

Yeah, he went there.  It’s a sad day in America that this even needs to be said.  But then again, we are in California, so sometimes it’s hard to tell if the US Constitution even applies.

Honorable Roger Benitez
Honorable Roger Benitez, the patron saint of the Second Amendment. Magazines from MySouthernTactical

Of course, the State of California presented plenty of reasons why we should not have freedom-sized magazines.  The first being that guns are dangerous. People get killed all the time! Luckily for us, the Judge reminded the AG that

“the Second Amendment does not exist to protect the right to bear down pillows and foam baseball bats.  It protects guns and every gun is dangerous.”

The argument against that, obviously, is that the State wasn’t restricting guns, just the magazines to be used in them.  In response to that argument, the judge went on to further state that

“neither magazines, nor rounds of ammunition, nor triggers, nor barrels are specifically mentioned in the Second Amendment.  But without a right to keep and bear triggers, or barrels, or ammunition and the magazines that hold ammunition, the Second Amendment right would be meaningless.”

If the State believed the Second Amendment actually existed, it probably would’ve been convinced at this point.  

Freedom Angel
In America, we make Freedom Angels!

This is California though, so the State didn’t stop there.  They further argued that there are mass shootings that happen all the time, and if we can ban “large-capacity magazines”, then these shootings would stop.  While no one would argue against eliminating, or at least reducing, the number of mass shootings, the Judge reminded the State that:

the government’s proposed [solution] – [that] to protect against the violations of the few, we must burden the constitutional rights of the many – turns the Second Amendment on its head.  Our Founders crafted a Constitution to promote the liberty of the individual, not the convenience of the Government.”

d-60 freedom
Letting freedom ring, 60 rounds at a time – Magpul D-60

In other words, just because it’d be easier for the government to stop crimes from happening if they put everyone in straitjackets, that doesn’t mean they can ignore the individual liberties recognized by the Constitution and go ahead and do it.  

Continuing with their ridiculous arguments, California also claimed that a magazine ban wasn’t a big deal, since there was still access to other types of magazines, and it would just be a minor burden on the gun-owners.  

minor burden

The judge saw through that, however, and noted that

“describing as minor, the burden on responsible, law-abiding citizens who may not possess a 15-round magazine for self-defense because there are other arms permitted with 10 or fewer rounds, is like saying that when government closes a Mormon church it is a minor burden because next door there is a Baptist church or a Hindu temple.”

In other words,

“the right to bear other weapons is ‘no answer’ to a ban on the possession of protected arms.”

Basically, just because the State allowed for other options didn’t mean it was allowing for choice.  We have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.  The State forgets that sometimes. Or purposely ignores it.

Throwing everything against the wall at this point, California argued that the magazine ban was passed under Proposition 63 by the will of the voters, so it is perfectly legal.

California Attorney General's argument in a nut shell
California Attorney General’s argument in a nutshell

Fortunately for us, Judge Benitez follows the Constitution and doesn’t rule based on whatever the mob wants, and told the AG that:

“an unconstitutional statute adopted by a dozen jurisdictions is no less unconstitutional by virtue of its popularity.”

The remaining argument by the State was that the government should be allowed to experiment with laws to deal with serious problems like gun violence.  The thinking was that if the federal government could try a gun and magazine ban back in the 90’s, then why not California in 2000 and beyond?

Because, Benitez explains,:

“Congress tried for a decade the nationwide experiment of prohibiting large capacity magazines.  It failed. California has continued the failed experiment for another decade and now suggests that it may continue to do so ad infinitum without demonstrating success.  That makes no sense… Ten years of a federal ban on large-capacity magazines did not stop mass shootings nationally. Twenty years of a California ban on large capacity magazines have not stopped mass shootings in California.”  

That’s why.

Finally, to finish off his beatdown of the State’s flimsy arguments, Judge Benitez closed out by reminding the AG that:

“the reason for the adoption of the Second Amendment was to protect the citizens of the new nation from the power of an oppressive state. …it is ironic that the State whittles away at the right of its citizens to defend themselves from the possible oppression of their State.”

Washington crossing the Delaware, tactically.
Washington crossing the Delaware, tactically.

There were other arguments that dealt with the legal requirements of the ban, such as what type of consideration the judge needs to give to certain arguments and evidence, and not the actual evidence and arguments themselves.  

For the sake of the readers who would probably fall asleep reading about those arguments, we’ve left out the analysis of that aspect, but all you aspiring lawyers out there are welcome to take a crack at it and see for yourselves!

Locals Only

Now that story time is over (was anyone else turned on by all that freedom?) what about cities that have their own magazine restrictions?

You, my friend, are asking all the hard-hitting questions. Without getting into too much legalese, whether the magazine ban is lifted for cities as well gets into the sticky issue of preemption.  Preemption basically is the idea that if a state and local government both have laws about the same issue, then the state law would be the one to follow.

In this case, when the State of California passed California Penal Code 32310, it prohibited, among other things, the manufacture, purchase, import, and sale of magazines capable of holding 10 or more rounds.  If your city had a local ordinance with similar restrictions, then it was effectively preempted by the State law.

BUT

The tricky part is that the ruling says the state law is unconstitutional, but unless your city ordinance was worded exactly or almost exactly like the magazine ban, the slight differences may be enough to make it constitutional where the state law was not.

bummer

This is especially true in places like Sunnyvale, which got a couple of shoutouts in the ruling by Judge Benitez because of their own magazine ban court case.  

Sunnyvale’s ordinance restricts magazines to 10-rounders, but there are some exceptions to the ordinance, and the law is on a local scale. These factors make the situation different enough from the statewide law that it is still enforceable (for the time being).

So the takeaway is that if you live in a city with local ordinances regarding magazine sizes (those of you in Sunnyvale, SF, and Oakland), you’ll still have to follow those local laws even though the state law has been deemed unconstitutional.

freedom
One day, Sunnyvale, one day.

The City of Los Angeles

LA city (not the surrounding County of Los Angeles) had an ordinance that also restricted magazine capacity.  However, in anticipation of the State law, LA allowed their own rules to expire early this year.  That means you lucky ducks in LA can buy standard-capacity magazines like the rest of us!

It’s important for our Sunnyvale friends to keep in mind that the lawsuit against the city ordinance is actually still working its way through the court system, so while you may not be allowed to buy standard-capacity magazines for the time being, that may all change once the case is finally decided.

 And for the people in SF and Oakland? It’s time to bring a lawsuit! Or move as soon as you can.

Use It or Lose It

Since we’re talking California, we’ve probably got a couple of poor souls who decide to register some of their AR-15s as “Registered Assault Weapons” (RAW) back in the middle of 2018.  Those who didn’t register either have some form of the Bullet Button 2.0 or Maglock or decided to go featureless.

The good news for those of you with RAWs is that since your rifle is already registered, you can use any-capacity mags like the rest of the United States (California is still technically part of the US, believe it or not).  Featureless rifle owners are also free to use freedom-sized magazines without worry.

Featureless AR-15
Featureless AR-15

For those of you with the Bullet Button 2.0 or Maglocks, however, you CANNOT use those 10+ round magazines with your rifles.  It’s perfectly legal for you to buy the mags and do whatever you want with them, EXCEPT to put them in your rifle.  This is because your rifles, due to the Bullet Button 2.0/Maglock method, have a fixed magazine.  

According to the State of California, a semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds is an assault weapon.  

Once you put that 10+ round magazine in your fixed-magazine rifle, you will have created an assault weapon.  

That’s a “Do not pass go, do not collect $200” situation right there.

The moral of the story is that since it’s too late to register your rifle as an assault weapon, you’ll either have to make your rifle featureless (with our handy guide to do just that), or you will need to resist the urge to try out the standard-capacity magazines in your fixed-magazine rifles.  I guess you could always buy a new featureless rifle too. Two is one, and one is none, right?

40
at PSA

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What’s Next?

With the crazy stressful (but also incredibly exciting) week behind us, we now have a partial stay on the case while the AG prepares to appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  

We’re back in the days of the 10-round magazine ban again, but at least we’ve got some new freedom sticks we didn’t have before.

Unfortunately, it’s a sure bet that the 9th Circuit will probably take up the appeal, and if history is any indication, will overturn Benitez’s decision and send us back to the Dark Ages.  At that point, we’ll have to take our fight to the Supreme Court, as usual.

Of course, there’s small chance that the 9th Circuit would decide to follow the Constitution for a change, and affirm that the magazine ban is in fact unconstitutional.  I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Frog Meme
I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

Either way, I hope you all enjoyed this window of freedom as much as we did, and it gave us all a taste of what actually living in the United States could feel like.  

If you still have any money left after buying all those magazines, definitely think about donating to pro-2A groups like the NRA (yes, they actually help sometimes!), and also the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA), the group that led the fight in this case.  

With any luck, this ruling will stand even after the appeal process, and we’ll be one step closer to living in a free state.

And now that you’re probably flush with mags…check out our Best Ammo section and Best AR-15 Upgrades post.

20 Leave a Reply

  • Dan MacPherson

    the 2018 registration was for "bullet button assault rifles". Non-bullet button assault rifles were registered in 2000. You cannot remove the bullet button from your bullet button assault rifle. As far as I know, you must use a 10 round magazine in your registered bullet button assault rifle.

    23 hours ago
  • Lou

    "Individual liberty and freedom are not outmoded concepts" Except to people who think they're in control - or should be. Such individuals may be well intended, but they are not cognizant of the fact that they will never truly be "in control" of anything, and the next administration could easily stand against their every belief. Even then, they don't want individual liberty, they just want compliance to their narrow minded view of what society should be like, regardless of the inconvenient facts of life.

    4 weeks ago
  • Beejay

    During freedom week, people were taking out their magazine blocks, removing rivets, and changing springs in mags to hold 30 rounds. Was it legal?

    1 month ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Yes, that falls under "manufacturing" standard capacity magazines. Totally legal!

      1 month ago
  • Jim

    You guys say you hope it doesn't go to the 9th Circuit. Well, I'm not a CA, so my opinion is just that, but I hope it DOES, because then it has the opportunity to make it to the Supreme Court. If SCOTUS takes it up, that would be incredible. Not only would the ban have to be lifted in CA, but NY, NJ, MA, etc would also have all of their ridiculous gun laws challenged. Everyone in the aforementioned states should hope the appeal keeps going. Sure, it might be a bit painful while in the 9th Circuit (but not anymore painful that it already has been with the ban in place), but think of all the positive for the rest of the US that would come out of it. If the 9th Circuit is smart, and if NY has anything to say about it, they'll not take the appeal.

    1 month ago
    • Lou

      Agreed 100%! CA isn't even the worst state for 2A infringements - at least in some respects. This would go a very long way to fixing problems in other states, including unconstitutional bans on what firearms people can own.

      4 weeks ago
  • Jack

    The purchase of so many magazines to CA during “Freedom Week” shows how much gun owners in CA follow the law and are law biding citizens and are not and do not want to be criminals and break the law. Sad that we are are so oppressed and are so underrepresented yet we still are lawful citizens and comply with bowing to these additional hoops we have to jump through. We are taken advantage of by our own state we protect and live in. These recent purchases also represent that a great majority of CA gun owners are responsible and sane and they are not mentally ill or wanting to do any deliberate harm or to break the law. CA should be proud of this group and not fear us. I hope all those online store also see the value ($$) to support and donate to the NRA and the CRPA. Thank you (Paul esq.) for the clear and easily digestible article.

    1 month ago
  • wondering

    Well written article. Just to clarify...On the limiters, and mag blocks that were taken off during freedom week, are these magazines now considered legal?

    1 month ago
    • Bee

      I was wondering too

      1 month ago
    • Paul Yen

      California residents were allowed to buy and manufacture standard capacity magazines during Freedom Week, so any magazines that were manufactured into 10+ round mags during that week of 3/29-4/5 (5pm) were, and remain legal!

      1 month ago
      • wondering

        Thank you Paul. Is it still called "manufacture" if modified or took out some parts (limiters, rivets) to make them standard capacity? Again. thank you for your work.

        1 month ago
        • Shepherd of Fire

          Yep. Just make sure it has the appropriate size spring. For example, the AR15 Hexmags have a spacer and shorter spring in them. Swap short spring and remove the tall block under the follower and you are good to go. The Amend2 and several others are standard 30 rounders and only need the rivet removed for a fully functional freedom clipazine of standard capacity. Shall not be infringed!

          1 month ago
  • Jlac

    Thanks for this article, the facts regarding the events of freedom week is pretty consistent with all other articles ivectead out there but the difference is this one was easy to understand. I'm glad we have a federal judge along with the NRA & CRPA that stood up for our constitutional right to bear arms! We won this short battle and tasted some freedom after 20 yrs. of infringement but there's more to go.

    1 month ago
  • Oso

    When are they going to indict Eric Holder for committing treason in Fast & Furious that's what I want to know... all they care about is the high capacity magazines that law-abiding citizens and Veterans have, when you have a group of individuals that are so powerful and so above the law you have no law you have a socialistic one world order.... the fight for freedom and the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed it's to protect us from tyranny it has nothing to do with f###ing deer hunting... I'm 100% disabled crippled and and I live 16 miles from the southern border if any illegal Criminal Alien breaks into my house and I diffuse the situation I have to go and get a criminal defense attorney to represent me to fight for my freedom while he gets protected by sanctuary state laws....welcome to the California Republic of communist China.....

    1 month ago
  • Tom

    Well written and good to know there are still a few sane US citizens in CA. Now if you could please just stem the flow of people who left CA only to try and bring those policies to Texas, it would be much appreciated. You and your compadres are welcome anytime. Keep up the fight...

    1 month ago
  • Sloop

    I would love to know just how many "high cap" mags sold last week. I'll bet it's in the tens of thousands or even more. I'm LOVIN' it! Great article, BTW.

    1 month ago
    • JohnnyD

      Brownells indicated they sold around 350K just on their own, so total in state orders are probably closer to 1 million.

      1 month ago
  • Mike Flannery

    Any chance of getting the similar ban inNew York lifted?

    1 month ago
  • Ruben Gonzalez Jr

    Great Article

    1 month ago
    • Eric Hung

      Thanks Ruben!

      1 month ago
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