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California's Ban on High Capacity Magazines Blocked by Federal Judge

By George Khoury, Esq. on June 30, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

California voters suffered a setback in the fight to make the state safer from gun violence. The ban on high capacity magazines, approved last year by a majority of voters, has been blocked by a federal judge pending the outcome of the case.

The new law, which was slated to take effect this weekend, would have required owners of high capacity magazines to risk fines and criminal penalties just for possessing the ammunition magazines that fit 10 or more bullets. Since 2000, California law has prohibited purchasing or selling these type of magazines. This lawsuit was filed in San Diego by the California arm of the National Rifle Association.

Preliminary Injunction Junction

At this stage of the case, the judge's order preventing the enforcement of the new law is only temporary. Preliminary injunctions only have an effect while a case is pending, and can be reversed at any time during the case if the court no longer believes the requirements are met.

Essentially, the court granted the preliminary injunction because the NRA argued that owners of the high capacity magazines in the state could suffer damages and injury if the law was allowed to go into effect. The law would allow owners to be fined $100 for a violation of the law, as well as face up to one year in jail.

One Court Can Rule Them All

Perhaps what is most surprising about this decision is that a federal court in Sacramento rejected a similar challenge. However, the San Diego court's temporary injunction applies statewide.

Generally, the federal courts have the authority to block enforcement of a law, not just statewide, but also nationwide. This was recently seen with executive order travel bans that were temporarily blocked by the federal courts.

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