Attorney General Phil Weiser joins court brief defending large-capacity magazine limit laws
Oct. 27, 2023 (DENVER)—Attorney General Phil Weiser joined a coalition of 18 other attorneys general in supporting the District of Columbia’s efforts to limit the capacity of firearms magazines within its borders. The coalition filed a court brief yesterday in support of the District of Columbia in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, arguing that D.C.’s law that limits the possession and sale of large-capacity magazines comports with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The case, Hanson v. District of Columbia, concerns the constitutionality of a D.C. law that allows for possession and sale of firearms magazines that accept up to 10 rounds of ammunition, but prohibits larger capacity magazines. The case was brought by plaintiffs who claim that the law violates their Second Amendment rights. A U.S. District Court concluded that the plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed on the merits of that claim and therefore allowed the law to remain in effect while the case proceeds. The plaintiffs then appealed the decision to a higher court.
A Colorado gun safety law enacted in 2013 prohibits the sale of detachable magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition. The Colorado Supreme Court in 2020 unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the state’s large-capacity magazine limit law under the state constitution.
“We have a duty to protect our communities from tragic gun violence. Each mass shooting is different, but a common denominator in each incident is that the shooter used a large-capacity magazine. As experience has shown, large-capacity magazine limitation laws decrease the deadly impacts of mass shootings by reducing the number of people who will be shot during a mass shooting incident–and save lives. It is critical that courts uphold these common-sense gun safety laws,” said Weiser.
In the amicus brief, the attorneys general collectively argue that D.C.’s large-capacity magazine law is a constitutionally permissible restriction because:
- To encourage public safety, states can and do impose restrictions on dangerous weapons, accessories, and ammunition that pose a threat to communities. States have widely adopted reasonable limits on forms of ammunition that are not suitable for self-defense and undermine public safety. These limits are intended to reduce injuries and deaths, while leaving other options available for individuals to exercise their Second Amendment right to self-defense.
- Large-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment because they are not “Arms” and they are not commonly used or suitable for self-defense. The Second Amendment protects only firearms that are commonly used or suitable for self-defense. Large-capacity magazines are neither and facilitate the infliction of more injuries and more deaths when used in mass shootings and other forms of gun violence.
- The District of Columbia’s law is consistent with a historical tradition of regulating and imposing restrictions on new and distinctively dangerous forms of weaponry. Historical gunpowder storage laws and other rules and regulations were explicitly intended to prevent threats to public safety by limiting the aggregation of arsenals far beyond what would be sufficient for self-defense. Many state and federal laws throughout American history have also regulated specific dangerous weapons or accessories used for criminal and other violent purposes, such as machine guns or short-barreled shotguns.
The brief was co-led by Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell and New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.
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