Supreme Court Ruling on Gun Magazines

WASHINGTON, June 30 (Reuters) – Following last week`s landmark ruling expanding individual gun rights, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday overturned several lower court rulings that upheld gun restrictions, including bans on assault rifles in Maryland and wide-body ammunition magazines in New Jersey and California. Maryland plaintiffs have challenged the term “assault weapon” as an imprecise “political term,” arguing that assault weapons cannot be banned outright because they are “commonly used” by millions of law-abiding people, just like the handguns at issue in the landmark 2008 Supreme Court decision that lifted the U.S. capital`s gun ban. In contrast, Judge Patrick Bumatay said the court allows California to ban magazines that are “universally owned by millions of law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes” and “offer legislators a blank check to violate the Second Amendment.” The judges` actions sent these cases back to lower courts for reconsideration in light of their June 23 ruling, which declared for the first time a constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense. In future gun cases, Kavanaugh and Roberts could be decisive voices. If they join the three liberal justices, it would be enough to forge a majority in a future decision. Thursday`s ruling noted that some cases involving “unprecedented societal concerns or dramatic technological changes may require a more nuanced approach.” Several challenges to state gun laws have been referred to lower courts in light of the U.S. Supreme Court`s landmark decision limiting restrictions on gun ownership outside the home. One of the cases, which the judges referred to a lower court on Thursday, involved a Hawaiian law similar to New York`s. In that case, an 11-judge panel from the 9th District ruled in 2021 that the right to “hold and bear arms” in the Second Amendment of the Constitution “does not guarantee a universal and unrestricted right to openly bear arms in public for individual self-defense.” But the Supreme Court said in its latest gun case that the Constitution “protects a person`s right to carry a handgun to defend himself outside the home.” A lower court must now review Hawaii`s decision. A 2018 law in New Jersey restricts most gun owners to magazines containing up to 10 rounds instead of the 15-round limit in place since 1990. A lower court upheld the law.

The Supreme Court also overturned a lower court ruling upholding Hawaii`s restrictions on the open carrying of firearms in public as valid under the Second Amendment. California lawmakers banned the sale of firearms with wide-body magazines in 2000 and the purchase of firearms in 2013. Both laws were declared unconstitutional in 2019 by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego, but remain in effect while they are reviewed by the U.S. Ninth Court of Appeals. The Maryland plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in 2020, though they acknowledged that their case was doomed following a 2017 ruling by the U.S. 4th Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, that upheld Maryland`s ban. The Supreme Court declined to rule on an appeal against this decision. However, several supporters of gun violence say the move could open the floodgates for gun rights groups to challenge many other gun restrictions passed in recent years.

The decision, which follows lawmakers` passage of a package of legislation that advocates say will help reduce gun violence, drew cheers from gun rights advocates. The Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, which represents more than one million gun owners in New Jersey, had challenged the state`s ban on firearms magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The justices` actions Thursday mean lower courts that have authorized gun restrictions will have to reconsider their rulings, including one upholding Maryland`s ban on “highly dangerous military assault rifles.” Two conservative justices who agreed with the decision proposed some parameters for scope. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a concurring opinion, echoed by Chief Justice John Roberts, that the decision has some limitations, particularly some of the licensing requirements that states maintain, including background checks and firearms training. The justices, in a 6-3 decision last week, struck down a New York law that required people to show a “good reason,” some need to carry a gun if they wanted to carry a gun in public. Half a dozen states have similar laws that were challenged by the decision. In the New York case, the conservative majority of the court gave the lower courts new guidelines for assessing gun restrictions. The judges rejected a two-step approach, which appellate courts had previously used as one step too many. They said courts evaluating modern gun regulations should only ask whether they “agree with the text and historical understanding of the Second Amendment.” In light of last week`s ruling — that Americans have the right to carry guns outside the home — the Supreme Court said lower courts should reconsider several cases that awaited Supreme Court action.

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