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State Briefs In CA Gun Case Show National Divide On Firearm Policy

Last month, 19 U.S. states and the District of Columbia came together to support California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. In a brief to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals where a challenge to California's law is being considered, the coalition argued that California’s ban is “wholly consistent” with the 2nd Amendment and should be upheld as lawful. Last week, 25 other states responded with their own brief arguing the opposite. They said California’s ammunition ban was a threat to the 2nd Amendment and to individual gun owners’ right to self-defense, and should be overturned as unconstitutional. The dueling legal briefs showcased something most Americans already understand from years of robust gun debates and an endless barrage of mass shootings: This is a nation deeply divided on gun policy, reports the Los Angeles Times. “This is a reflection of where the country is,” said Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor who focuses on 2nd Amendment law. “It really highlights a political divide.”


The briefs showed how differently attorneys general and other legal leaders in red and blue states are interpreting the new limits the U.S. Supreme Court placed on gun laws nationwide last year, Winkler said — with liberal leaders perceiving ample wiggle room for state gun restrictions to survive, and their conservative counterparts seeing far less. Gun laws are being challenged in courts across the country following the Supreme Court’s decision last year. The high court rejected a long-standing pillar of 2nd Amendment law that held that governments may enforce certain firearms restrictions if they have a compelling government interest in doing so. The justices decided most restrictions on firearms are legitimate only if they are deeply rooted in U.S. history or analogous to some other historical rule. The ruling prompted legal challenges to gun laws across the U.S. California’s bans on high-capacity magazines and assault-style weapons were both overturned as unconstitutional in recent months by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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