Judge refuses to stop SF’s ammo magazine ban

A federal judge on Wednesday refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking San Francisco’s new ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, and so the law will take effect as planned on April 7.

The state’s assault weapon ban has forbidden such magazines’ manufacture, sale or transfer since 2000, but let people who owned them before then keep them. San Francisco supervisors on Oct. 29 unanimously approved a ban that will require owners to get rid of them – turn them over to police, remove them from the city, or transfer them to a licensed firearms dealer – within 90 days, no matter when they were bought.

30-round magazineThe San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association, backed and represented by the National Rifle Association, sued in November to prevent the new law from taking effect. But U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a 12-page ruling Wednesday that concluded immediate enforcement is in the public interest.

“In assessing the balance of equities, those rare occasions must be weighed against the more frequent and documented occasions when a mass murderer with a gun holding eleven or more rounds empties the magazine and slaughters innocents,” Alsup wrote. “One critical difference is that whereas the civilian defender rarely will exhaust the up-to-ten magazine, the mass murderer has every intention of firing every round possible and will exhaust the largest magazine available to him. On balance, more innocent lives will be saved by limiting the capacity of magazines than by allowing the previous regime of no limitation to continue.”

The judge also noted that 86 percent of mass shootings in the past 30 years involved at least one magazine that could hold more than 10 rounds, and more people are injured and killed per mass shooting with such magazines than without. “San Francisco’s interest in preventing another Sandy Hook tragedy constitutes a ‘critical public interest.’”

A spokesman for Chuck Michel, the NRA’s West Coast counsel, said the plaintiffs will appeal Alsup’s ruling.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a statement applauding the decision.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has been very clear that state and local governments are constitutionally entitled to enact reasonable firearms regulations, and that Second Amendment rights aren’t unlimited,” he said. “Unfortunately, the NRA is pushing a radical litigation strategy that goes far beyond what’s reasonable. I’m grateful to the district court for drawing that distinction in persuasive terms.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • JohnW

    Wow, limiting magazines to 10 rounds could be a real problem! It took ten rounds for the software guy in Florida to defend himself against the teens playing loud music. What if he had needed 11 to get the job done?

  • MichaelB

    More feel good nonsense policies from so called “progressives”.

    There is no “critical public interest” in confiscating/extorting legally owned property from law abiding people NOT engaged in violent behavior and/or making them instant bad guys. So what’s being done about the real criminals? It’s the “fault” of the magazine size for violence? Is this what people are being taught in law schools?

    The “high capacity” magazine limit of 10 is just some made up number by gun control groups/politicians deciding what people supposedly “need”. Most common/modern firearms have magazines holding more.
    Why not have the police also surrender their “high capacity” magazines if they are such a problem in our society? If “it saves one life, it’s worth it”, right?

    As usual the left wing won’t go near the failure of their gun control measures/address personal responsibility issues to stop violence. Just stick their noses up at the 2nd Amendment and pass more bans/confiscate what people legally own. And then call it “reasonable”! The criminals are terrified and will most certainly turn in their magazines for politically acceptable ones!

  • JohnW

    “Why not have the police also surrender their ‘high capacity’ magazines if they are such a problem in our society?” Seriously?

    I honestly don’t have an opinion about whether limiting magazines to 10 rounds accomplishes anything or not. Having to change magazines apparently prevented the Tucson shooter (who shot Congresswoman Giffords and several others) from doing even more damage. But, the implication of your rhetorical question seems to be that cops (who are trained and paid to do what they do) should not have any arms advantage over civilians. If civilians aren’t allowed to pack in public, then cops shouldn’t either. If cops can have heavily armed SWAT vehicles, then civilians should be able to drive around in the same.

  • Hisazo

    Remember the first part of the second amendment reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” I love this regulation. Good work California Judges!