High-Capacity Magazine Ban Still in Flux in California

Lawsuit halts attempt to extend ban to magazines grandfathered in

The Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun that a Marine Corps veteran used to kill at least 12 people, including a sheriff's sergeant, in a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, was bought legally, the Ventura County sheriff said Thursday. But a comprehensive ban on the large-capacity magazine with which it was equipped is being blocked by a federal lawsuit brought by the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association.

The California State Sheriff's Association and other law enforcement groups are supporting the NRA lawsuit and none had comment after the sergeant was killed.

To be sure, it appears that the gunman would have been unable to have legally obtained a large-capacity magazine in California regardless of the court fight. He would have been a child when California first prohibited magazines larger than 10 rounds in 2000 and grandfathered in ones people already owned. But Thursday's shooting drew attention to the legal battle.

After the San Bernardino shooting, voters approved extending the ban to all magazines, with the new law to go into effect in July 2017. But that the lawsuit brought by the California Rifle and Pistol Association halted its implementation.

The veteran, identified as 28-year-old Ian David Long, shot his way into the western-themed Borderline Bar & Grill and killed at least 12, including Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus. Helus, a 29-year veteran of the department and a member of its SWAT team, was one of the first officers to rush into the bar filled with college students. He exchanged gunfire but was struck multiple times and later died at the hospital.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said that the Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun was designed to hold 10 rounds and one in the chamber.

“The weapon did have an extended magazine on it,” Dean said. “We do not know at this time how many rounds were actually in the weapon or how many rounds the magazine could actually hold because it's still being processed as part of the evidence.”

It is believed that Long shot and killed himself, the sheriff said.

Supporting the California Rifle and Pistol Association’s lawsuit blocking the ban on larger magazines are the California State Sheriff’s Association, the Western States Sheriff’s Association, the California Reserve Peace Officers Association and other law enforcement groups.

The California sheriff’s association and the reserve peace officers association did not respond to request for comment about their participation.

Jim Pond, the executive director of the Western States Sheriff’s Association, when asked if he had a comment in light of Helus’ death, said, “I don’t at this time because I’m really unaware of the events surrounding that one. So until I get some more information we won’t have any information at this point.”

In a brief that the groups submitted, they argued that a ban on the grandfathered magazines would not increase public safety because it would affect only law-abiding gun owners and that magazines holding more than 10 rounds are not “large-capacity” but are standard-issue on commonly owned pistols and rifles.

California is one of nine states and the District of Columbia that have enacted a ban on large-capacity magazines. In California, it is generally illegal to buy, make, sell, give, lend or import a magazine able to accept more than 10 rounds, according to the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

After voters approved extending the prohibition, owners who had been grandfathered in would have had to destroy the magazines, send them out of state, sell them to a federally licensed firearms dealer or turn them in to police.

“There’s just a lot of data that shows that large-capacity magazines are particularly attractive to mass shooters and to individuals committing crimes against law enforcement,” Ari Freilich, staff attorney for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Sacramento Bee last year. “They do not have legitimate self-defense value.”

An extended magazine could have given the Thousands Oaks gunman 30 shots, perhaps even more if he reloaded, former New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton, an MSNBC contributor, told NBC News.

The Sacramento Bee reported that it was unclear how many larger-capacity magazines remained.

Implementation of the extended ban was halted by a federal judge until a final ruling in the lawsuit was issued.

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who created the Giffords Law Center after she was shot and six others were killed, said in a statement Thursday that she was heartbroken and angry.

“Voters made clear Tuesday night that the days of the NRA blocking action to strengthen our gun laws are over,” she said. “Now is the time to come together and pass legislation that will start putting our country back on the right track. Legislation that will prevent guns from landing in the wrong hands. Legislation that will save lives.”

The Gun Violence Archive, an independent research and data collection organization established in 2012, called the Thousands Oaks shooting the 307th mass shooting of 2018. The group defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter.

“Do we really want to raise our children in a country where mass shootings are a weekly occurrence?” Giffords asked. “A country where every single day in America, more than 90 people are killed with guns? This level of gun violence doesn’t happen in any other high-income country.”

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