3rd Circuit Upholds NJ’s Ban on Large-Capacity Gun Magazines

RIA1911 and Ammo

New Jersey – December 5, 2018. In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit refused to stop the enforcement of New Jersey’s 10-round magazine ban. The majority, in an opinion by Judge Shwartz and joined by Judge Greenaway, both appointed by President Obama, held that the ban did not violate the Second Amendment because it reasonably advanced the State’s interest in reducing mass shootings without severely burdening the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Read the full ruling here.

Ruger X magazines
Even plinkers will suffer under New Jersey’s law banning standard capacity magazines, but those wanting to carry more than 10 rounds in a magazine for self-defense are most at risk.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected a challenge to New Jersey’s ban on firearm magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

The appeals court, by a 2-1 margin, said the law limiting high-capacity magazines does not violate the Second Amendment, the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The court affirmed an order from the U.S. District Court that denied the challengers’ motion to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of the law.

The ruling is a major setback for the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, an NRA-affiliated group that challenged New Jersey’s ban, which was adopted in June. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York as well as some cities and counties have adopted laws limiting the possession and sale of magazines to 10 rounds, and five other circuit courts have upheld similar laws.

New Jersey’s law was allegedly enacted in response to the rise in active and mass shooting incidents in the United States. The appeals court found the ban “reasonably fits the State’s interest in public safety and does not unconstitutionally burden the Second Amendment’s right to self-defense in the home.”

Judges Joseph Greenaway Jr. and Patty Shwartz ruled to affirm the lower court. Judge Stephanos Bibas, in a 19-page dissenting opinion, called for granting an injunction against enforcement while the state makes its argument that the ban can prevent harm from mass shootings.

Shwartz, writing for the majority, noted that mass shootings increased 160 percent from 2006 to 2015.

New Jersey’s law does not severely burden the core Second Amendment right to self-defense in the home for five reasons, Shwartz wrote. It does not categorically ban a class of firearms; it does not ban a type of firearm that is overwhelmingly chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, such as a handgun; and the record shows large-capacity magazines are not well-suited for self-defense.

In addition, a ban on large-capacity magazines, unlike a ban on handguns, does not effectively disarm individuals or substantially hamper their ability to defend themselves. It also does not render the weapon incapable of operating as intended, and possession of a firearm in the home for self-defense is not a protected form of possession under all circumstances, Shwartz wrote.

The ruling affirms a Sept. 28 decision by U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan, who refused to enjoin enforcement of the large-capacity magazine ban. He disagreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that limiting magazines to 10 rounds instead of 15 violates their constitutional rights.

Glock 33-round magazines
Do the judges really believe that somone who intends to commit murder will care whether the magazine in the gun is legal?

Sheridan’s ruling said New Jersey, a densely populated urban state, has a strong interest in regulating firearms. He cited anecdotal evidence from a June 2018 mass shooting at an arts festival in Trenton that lives are saved when a gunman has to stop shooting to reload. Sheridan said a similar phenomenon was seen in the 2012 shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and at other mass shootings.

Bibas said the majority erred because laws that impair self-defense in the home warrant strict scrutiny, not intermediate scrutiny as the other judges selected. And the law fails the strict scrutiny test, Bibas said.

The ban impairs using guns for self-defense, since the more-frequent reloading necessitated by a smaller magazine “may make guns less effective for ill—but so too for good,” Bibas said.

Bibas also said that even under intermediate scrutiny, the law fails under the record of the case. Intermediate scrutiny “requires more concrete and specific proof before the government may restrict any constitutional right, period,” Bibas said.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement, “We are pleased with the Third Circuit’s ruling. Today’s decision was a big win for public safety and the safety of our law enforcement officers.”

Jeremy Feigenbaum, an assistant attorney general and counsel to the attorney general, argued for the state at the Third Circuit.

Daniel Schmutter of Hartman & Winnicki in Ridgewood, local counsel for the plaintiffs, said his clients were “disappointed by the court’s ruling” but “gratified by the strong and persuasive dissent by Judge Bibas.” The plaintiffs are considering their appellate options, including potentially seeking a rehearing en banc (before all of the judges), Schmutter said.

Do you think the Third Circuit’s ruling to uphold the ban on magazines based on capacity will hold? How should New Jersey’s gun owners fight the ruling? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (20)

  1. Great! now only military, police, and criminals will have large capacity magazines while the average gun owner will not. This is in direct violation of our constitutional rights no matter what some liberal ass clown 3rd circuit court judge has to say about it. The Governor of New Jersey, and especially these 3rd circuit jerk-offs have all sworn an oath to defend the constitution and in true liberal ass-clown fashion, they attack the constitution when elected. What a pack of fcking scumbags!

  2. Wow, if you when like babies when they limit magazines, just think how much you are going to enjoy it when we get a Democratic Senate and President in 2020, and we start seriously regulating guns. I can’t wait until possessing an unregistered firearm is a felony with a Federal mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years. You folks should not have made guns a partisan issue. I wouldn’t care about your childish fetish for weapons, but you made it a political issue. You opposed the left, so we will destroy the NRA, and ban your toys, just to punish you for supporting the wrong party, and use resistance to gun control a means of stripping your voting rights. You should give up before we start targeting you and your families individually.

  3. If all police forces were held to the same standard or the magazines could be permitted then maybe … just maybe…I could entertain this. But as it stands this is tyrrany.

  4. Many of us are smart enough to know that a reduction in magazine size is the FIRST step in a total gun ban. Mass shooters are criminals with a total disregard for gun laws. Gun laws are for those citizens who obey the law, and by definition . . . non criminal, non mass shooters, no need for magazine limits-period! Supreme Court will hopefully overrule this. We shall see.

  5. I thought that the purpose of the second amendment was to enable citizens to resist a tyrannical government – government by the consent of the governed. The second amendment is the provision that the founding fathers provided for the public to “withdraw consent”. In that case, citizens need to have parity with law enforcement and the military. But somewhere along the line, we have allowed the debate to become centered on hunting and home protection. This is why many people believe that it seems reasonable to limit access to weapons. It’s harder to justify the need for powerful guns and big magazines if all I am talking about is a deer hunt, or protecting the 3000 square feet I call home. But that debate is a distraction from the real, core issue. The second amendment exists as an important check and balance on the government, and citizens require access to whatever is necessary to check and balance the potential threat against society – the corrupt use of power.

  6. Perhaps some confusion is caused by the wording of the ruling. Who said anything about self defense in a home or house? Being retired, I frequently travel by RV and often in very rural areas without cell service. My Glock holds 15 rounds, and I do not really worry about a reload unless I take a walk. At night, being often in bear country, I like the 20 round mag in the AR. Are you going to get 20 shots at an attacking bear> Of course not, but I also know of several cases where armed intruders attacked campers and 2 cases where they were murdered. One such case was a couple killed at a roadside park on Interstate 40, where the couple stopped to walk their dogs, I have often stopped at that one to walk my dogs. After a career in law enforcement I can tell you that whenever that AR comes out, the bad guys change their attitude because they know it has lots of bullets and the come out quick. And when you are in places where there is no cell phone coverage, and the bad guys know that, the mere sight of the long magazine can save your life. If they choose to do a battle then a reload is simply a bad idea, so 20 or 30 rounds is the difference between living or not. That is what we call self defense. So, just because you think you can stop all 4 home invaders with your 6 shot revolver, does not mean it works for everyone. And yes, there are lots of home invasions where 2 or more young thugs come through the door. I am just assuming from the comments that many readers have not been in law enforcement, because multiple invaders is as common as a single invader. FWIW

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