NJ Gun Control Measure Upheld Again by Federal Judges
New Jersey's ban on large-capacity gun magazines has survived another legal challenge.
A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday dismissed an appeal by gun-rights activists who said the state's 10-round magazine cap ran afoul of the Second, Fifth, and 14th amendments.
The 3-1 ruling is a victory for New Jersey, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, despite an increasingly conservative federal court system that gun control advocates feared would roll back restrictions. The lone dissent on the decision was from a judge appointed by President Donald Trump.
The 2018 law had previously passed muster with another three-judge panel of the Circuit Court as well as the District Court for New Jersey.
The state defended the law, which exempted active military and police officers as well as retired police officers, by arguing that it could safe lives by forcing a mass shooter to pause to reload.
The Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs sued the state immediately after the law was passed. Federal judges concluded that the law does not violate the Second Amendment because it does not prohibit possession of firearms or "effectively disarm individuals or substantially affect their ability to defend themselves." Judges also noted that the law does not limit the number of magazines that a person can own.
The judges also said that the law does not violate the Fifth Amendment's takings clause because the law allowed owners of the large-capacity magazines to modify them, transfer them to a person who could legally own them, surrender them to police or register a magazine that could not be modified.
The majority decision found no violation of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause by exempting law enforcement officers because police are held to higher standards, including being required to take gun safety tests.
The gun-rights group said Tuesday it was "currently considering all options" and was hopeful that that Judge Paul Matey's dissent would pave the way for a full hearing before the full 3rd Circuit Court.
Circuit courts have upheld bans of large-capacity magazines in Maryland, New York, Illinois and Washington, D.C.
A panel of the 9th Circuit Court this summer, however, found California's ban unconstitutional. But that decision could still be overturned by the full bench of judges.
The Brady Campaign, a group that advocates for gun control measures, applauded the decision in the New Jersey case.
“This decision is the latest reality-check confirming that so much of the rhetoric from the gun lobby and others on the Second Amendment is plain wrong," Brady Legal Vice President Jonathan Lowy said Tuesday in a written statement.
"The Third Circuit, like most courts across the country, have properly recognized that the Second Amendment is totally consistent with strong, sensible gun laws, like New Jersey’s ban on large capacity magazines."