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Attorney General William Tong



Attorneys General Argue that the Second Amendment Allows States to Adopt Gun Safety Laws

Attorney General William Tong today joined a group of 18 state 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, Attorney General Tong and his counterparts argue that states have the right to enact reasonable firearm restrictions that protect public safety and reduce the prevalence and lethality of gun violence.

"Common sense gun safety measures save lives. That is a fact. Nothing in the Second Amendment prevents states from enacting such common sense measures to protect public safety—like we have done in Connecticut. The law is clear. Large-capacity magazines are designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. There is no place for these weapons of war on our streets and in our communities. States not only have the legal authority to act, they have the moral obligation to act to combat the crisis of gun violence. The lower court ruling in this case was an abomination and must be resoundingly overturned. The stakes in this case could not be higher," said Attorney General William Tong.

Connecticut and partner states filed this friend-of-the-court brief in Duncan v. Becerra, a lawsuit challenging California’s prohibition on large-capacity magazines. The 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.

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 has 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 California has the right to adopt because:

  • 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 who wish to exercise the 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 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.
  • 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 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.

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