The California Rifle and Pistol Association was joined by 30 California sheriffs in a lawsuit filed against the City of Los Angeles on Friday. CRPA and the elected sheriffs filed the suit in response to the city’s ban on the possession of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. These magazines are legal to possess, but not to manufacture or sell, in the rest of California. The city claims that the ban is necessary to protect the public from mass shootings. The city’s theory is that criminals in a mass shooting will be forced to reload more often, thus reducing the number of casualties. However, the city council offered no evidence to support that claim. (It should be remembered that the rampage killer who shot to death 3 after stabbing to death 3 near UC Santa Barbara in 2014 was using magazines that would still be legal to possess under the L.A. ordinance. In that case, the killer injured 7 people with his vehicle and not the handguns he possessed.)
The lawsuit claims that the L.A. ordinance is illegal because it is preempted by California law. Section 53071 of the California Government Code reads:
It is the intention of the Legislature to occupy the whole field of regulation of the registration or licensing of commercially manufactured firearms as encompassed by the provisions of the Penal Code, and such provisions shall be exclusive of all local regulations, relating to registration or licensing of commercially manufactured firearms, by any political subdivision as defined in Section 1721 of the Labor Code.
The San Francisco ban on handgun possession was struck down by the courts because, like the L.A. law, it violated the State’s preemption law.
The sheriffs have joined this suit because it places their deputies at risk of arrest. LEOs are permitted to have these magazines while on duty, but not when they’re “off the clock”. So a Kern county deputy testifying in a Los Angeles courtroom would be allowed a standard capacity 15-round magazine for his sidearm while on the stand, but not while traveling to and from the court.
The ban also places non-L.A. residents in legal jeopardy when they travel through the City. A San Bernardino resident, for example, would not be able to take her legal 15-round magazines to a shooting range in Torrance without passing through Los Angeles. A shooter from Hawthorne would not be able to take legally possessed 15-round magazines anywhere east of Vermont Avenue. Furthermore, anyone taking a connecting flight through LAX would be at risk of arrest as soon as their flight touched down if they have an otherwise legal magazine in their checked baggage. LAX is entirely within the city limits and thus the ban would apply to the entire facility, including check baggage.
The sheriffs and CRPA are asking that the court stay enforcement of the L.A. ban until its legality can be determined by the courts.