Lawsuit Challenges Large Capacity Magazine Ban
The CRPOA has joined 30 Sheriffs and others in a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles challenging its ban on the possession of large capacity magazines (magazines holding 11 rounds or more). Last week the L.A. Public Safety Committee approved amendments which would specifically exempt reserve officers and LEOSA-eligible retired officers (provided they have a CCW or CCW endorsement) and made other changes to the ordinance as noted below.
The CRPOA objects to the magazine ban on several grounds. First, the magazine ban (and others like it, e.g. City of Sunnyvale) are attempting to regulate firearms law even though State law already regulates this area of law. Under the State Constitution, State law “preempts” such local laws much like the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by which federal law “supersedes’ or preempts State and local law (which is the basis by which LEOSA preempts State and local law with regard to the carrying of a concealed firearm by active and retired law enforcement officers). Under the doctrine of preemption, local governments cannot ignore State law and pass measures on their own on the same substantive area of law. This patchwork of competing laws, if left unchecked, would virtually neutralize the State legislature and State law. Local governments could simply pass laws on their own which directly conflict with State law, leaving the citizens at the mercy of local politicians and creating a confusing set of inconsistent laws by which no citizenry could function.
The other major problem with the L.A. City ordinance is that its exemption for peace officers is poorly drafted and confusing. It provides that peace officers are exempt as long as they possess the large capacity magazine “while acting within the scope of his or her duties.” See subsection (c)(1) of the Ordinance. How that can be interpreted as anything other than in an on-duty capacity is beyond us. As noted above, the L.A. Public Safety Committee has proposed an amendment to that language to provide that peace officers may possess a large capacity magazine if they are authorized to do so by their agencies in accordance with agency policy. Much better. However, CRPOA believes that a significant number of City Council members oppose passage of the Committee’s amendments in the full City Council and that it may never become law in the City of Los Angeles.
Finally, we oppose what the City of Los Angeles is doing because of the “slippery slope” effect: if this measure is left to stand, what is next, cities passing ordinances refusing to honor CCW’s? Local governments deciding that PC Section 830.6 doesn’t apply to them and reserve peace officers are not a recognized category of peace officers in the State of California? The ramifications of weakening or even eviscerating the preemption doctrine are significant and must be opposed, particularly as local governments are laser-focused on gun control ordinances which negatively affect active and retired full-time and reserve peace officers alike.
In closing, CRPOA highly encourages agencies to adopt policies specifically aimed at local government large capacity magazine bans. A model policy could look like this:
California Penal Code Section 32405 provides an exemption for peace officers from the prohibition on the sale to, lending to, transfer to, purchase by, receipt of, importation into California of, a large-capacity magazine as set forth in California Penal Code Section 32310. [Agency name] officers are authorized by this Department to carry firearms with large-capacity magazines both on-duty and off-duty. Certain municipalities and other local government entities in the State of California have enacted prohibitions on the possession of large-capacity magazines with an exception for peace officers (qualified in some instances by the requirement that the peace officer who is carrying a firearm with a large-capacity magazine must do so “within the scope of his or her duties” in order to be eligible for such exception). It is the policy of the [Agency name] that any [Agency name] officer who is carrying a firearm with, or otherwise possesses, a large-capacity magazine is authorized to possess and carry the large-capacity magazine, and is considered by this policy to be doing so, within the scope of such officer’s duties both on-duty and off-duty.