By Bianca Bruno
SAN DIEGO – California residents who have acquired high-capacity gun magazines in the week since a federal judge found the state’s voter-approved ban on the firearms unconstitutional will be allowed to keep their weapons, but will not be able to import more into the state starting Friday at 5 p.m., a federal judge ruled Thursday in staying his order.
U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of the Southern District of California partially granted Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s request Thursday he stay his court order last week finding California’s voter-approved ban on high-capacity gun magazines over 10 rounds – Proposition 63 – unconstitutional.
Becerra’s office appealed Benitez’s 86-page order overturning Proposition 63 to the Ninth Circuit.
In a short six-page order released Thursday afternoon, Benitez ruled his 2017 preliminary injunction enjoining the state from requiring high-capacity magazine owners to turn over their previously legally acquired firearms should be reinstated, pending the appeal.
He also found the state can resume enforcing the 2000 state law barring the importation, manufacturing, sale, gifting, lending or buying of gun magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition, which was temporarily lifted based on Benitez’s court order last week.
But Benitez declined to require those who have imported high-capacity gun magazines into California in the week since he declared the state’s ban on the weapons unconstitutional to give up their weapons or be criminalized for owning them.
The law criminalizing the importation or sale of the high-capacity magazines will be reinstated Friday at 5 p.m., according to Benitez’s order.
It is unclear how many large-capacity magazines have been imported into California in the last week.
The judge recognized his order last week “cuts a less-traveled path and the outcome is very important to all citizens.”
“The court understands that strong emotions are felt by people of good will on both sides of the constitutional and social policy questions. The court understands that thoughtful and law-abiding citizens can and do firmly hold competing opinions on firearm magazine restrictions. These concerns auger in favor of judicial deliberation. There is an immeasurable societal benefit of maintaining the immediate status quo while the process of judicial review takes place,” Benitez wrote.
In a note to followers on its website Thursday, the California Rifle & Pistol Association advised gun owners of Benitez’s order and told them “it is critical that anyone who possesses one of the magazines in California refuse to talk to law enforcement if asked about their magazine.”
Thursday’s order follows a flurry of court filings by Becerra and the California Rifle & Pistol Association in the days following Benitez’s order overturning Proposition 63. Becerra asked for a stay of Benitez’s order Monday to “preserve the status quo,” and “prevent the surge of large-capacity magazine acquisitions in the state of California” pending the attorney general’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
Benitez found Thursday Becerra “has demonstrated a substantial case on the merits” and that there “is strong support” the state suffers irreparable injury whenever its laws are enjoined. He also found “the state’s interest in enforcing a law merges with the public interest, where the law is valid.”
Becerra’s office did not immediately return an email request for comment Thursday.