SAN JOSE (BCN)
A federal judge in San Jose today refused to block a Sunnyvale law that bans possession of high-capacity gun magazines that hold more than 10 automatically reloading bullets.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte turned down a request by five Sunnyvale residents for a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the measure, which was enacted by voters in that city in November.
The plaintiffs, whose lawsuit is sponsored by the National Rifle Association, claim the ban violates their constitutional Second Amendment right to bear arms.
But Whyte said in a 19-page ruling that the measure places only a “relatively light” burden on that right and that burden is outweighed by Sunnyvale’s interest in promoting public safety and preventing gun violence, including mass shootings.
“It is rare that anyone will need to fire more than 10 rounds in self-defense,” Whyte wrote.
“The risk that a major gun-related tragedy would occur is enough to at least balance out the inconvenience to plaintiffs in disposing of their now-banned magazines,” the judge said.
The decision is the second such ruling by a federal judge in the Bay Area in two weeks.
On Feb. 19, U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco denied a preliminary injunction in a challenge filed by a group of retired police officers and four individuals to a similar San Francisco law.
That lawsuit was also sponsored by the NRA, whose lawyers said they plan to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
A spokesman for the attorneys in the Sunnyvale case was not immediately available for comment on a possible appeal. The plaintiffs are entitled to a full trial on their lawsuit as well as to an appeal before trial, but in the meantime, without a preliminary injunction, the law will take effect as scheduled on Thursday.
Whyte noted in his ruling that Sunnyvale itself has experienced the dangers posted by high-capacity magazines.
The decision cited the case of Shareef Allman, a truck driver who killed three people and wounded six others at a Cupertino cement plant in 2011 before being pursued by police to Sunnyvale, where he killed himself. Allman had several weapons, including some with the capacity to carry more than 10 rounds of bullets, Whyte wrote.
The lawsuit challenging the Sunnyvale law is one of a series filed around the nation by the NRA to test the scope of a landmark 2008 decision in which the Supreme Court said the Second Amendment right to bear arms extends to individual gun possession.
Whyte noted that no other federal courts in the nation have thus far found high-capacity magazine bans to be unconstitutional.
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