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Presidential Elections Are Important


It shouldn’t be forgotten, and Mark Joseph Stern says, that California banned the kind high capacity magazine used in the mass killing in Thousand Oaks, but were thwarted by a neoconfederate hack:

The people of California wanted to protect residents of their state from precisely the kind of mass shooting that killed 12 people in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday. A federal judge wouldn’t let them.

In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 63 by 63 percent of the vote. The law’s centerpiece outlawed high-capacity magazines, defined as any magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Such magazines were used in some of the nation’s worst mass shootings, including Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Pulse Nightclub, and—since the measure passed—Las Vegas and Thousand Oaks. Gun rights advocates, including the California arm of the National Rifle Association, promptly filed a lawsuit, alleging a violation of their Second Amendment rights.

U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez, a George W. Bush appointee, blocked Proposition 63 in June 2017. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later declined to lift his injunction. In his ruling, Benitez declared that the law “is a poor fit as a means to eliminate the types of mass shooting events experienced in California.” He insisted that high-capacity magazines are “an incredibly rare danger to public safety.”

“Of the ten mass shooting events that occurred in California,” Benitez wrote, “only two involved the use of a magazine holding more than 10 rounds.” He reasoned that the law was a “poor fit” as means to increase public safety. And he concluded that, as a result, Proposition 63 likely cannot survive constitutional scrutiny.

Benitez expressly discounted a Mother Jones survey that found that half of 62 mass shootings between 1982 and 2012 involved magazines with more than 10 rounds. He ignored another study that found that high-capacity magazine shootings produced 60 percent more fatalities. And he overlooked the fact that mass shootings in Virginia fell when the state banned high-capacity magazines, only to rise once more when the ban was lifted.

You will sometimes hear decisions like described as the “Second Amendment” preventing gun control regulations. But this isn’t actually true. Nothing in the text of the Second Amendment — even if you assume arguendo that it confers an individual right to gun ownership — requires the legislation to be held unconstitutional. The controlling Supreme Court precedent does not require the regulation to be held illegal, and indeed implies that the ban should have been upheld. This is a policy choice by a District Court judge, nothing more, and a bad one at that.

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