Crime & Justice

LA's ban on high-capacity gun magazines hit with lawsuit

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck displays a handgun loaded with an extended clip on Wednesday March 2, 2011, during a news conference in Los Angeles. Chief Beck endorsed a proposed federal ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines that have been used in mass shootings.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck displays a handgun loaded with an extended clip on Wednesday March 2, 2011, during a news conference in Los Angeles. Chief Beck endorsed a proposed federal ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines that have been used in mass shootings.
Nick Ut/AP
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck displays a handgun loaded with an extended clip on Wednesday March 2, 2011, during a news conference in Los Angeles. Chief Beck endorsed a proposed federal ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines that have been used in mass shootings.
Parents of victims of gun violence — pastor Ruett Foster, from left, his wife Rhonda and Anna Del Rio — hold pictures of their late children during a rally at Los Angeles City Hall supporting a city ordinance to ban the possession of high-capacity gun magazines on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. The Los Angeles City Council voted to ban possession of high-capacity gun magazines in the wake of several deadly mass shootings around the country.
Nick Ut/AP


Los Angeles's new ban on high-capacity gun magazines may have hit a snag. More than two dozen California sheriffs and a pair of gun rights groups are suing to block the ordinance. They say it violates state law, which bans making and selling the magazines but lets people own them.

Attorneys for the California Rifle and Pistol Association — the official National Rifle Association group for the state — filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday seeking to halt the city ban. The California Reserve Peace Officers Association, the Law Enforcement Alliance of America and individual county sheriffs have also joined in the lawsuit.

Under the city ordinance adopted by the City Council in July and signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, gun owners have until Nov. 19 to get rid of any gun magazine that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition. If they don't, they could face criminal charges.

Attorneys from the law firm of Michel & Associates argue in the filing that existing state laws prevent individual cities from adopting their own laws on the issue.

"The city's attempt to ban the possession of magazines that were lawfully acquired and are lawfully possessed under state law is preempted because it contradicts numerous state laws, and because it attempts to regulate in a field that has been both expressly and impliedly preempted by state law," the lawsuit contends.

The lawsuit also claims that the city's ban puts law enforcement officials who are passing through Los Angeles "at risk of prosecution" because it "creates a patchwork quilt of laws that transient citizens, including inactive and off-duty enforcement officers, must attempt to navigate under threat of criminal penalties."

A court date for the lawsuit to be heard has not yet been assigned.

City Councilman Paul Krekorian, the author of the ordinance, said he was not worried about the suit, which he called a scare tactic. 

"I think this is just the typical NRA response to any common-sense gun measure," Krekorian said. "Any common-sense measure to try to reduce the violence on our streets always is met with either a threat of litigation or a lawsuit by the NRA and its allies because they know they can't win in the court of public opinion. They know that common sense and data and the public's will are on our side of the debate. And so their last refuge of hope is to run to court and to try to stop our efforts to keep the public safe."

"I fully expect we will fight this lawsuit, and we will fight to keep the people of Los Angeles safe," Krekorian said. "I'm confident that at the end the court will side with us and we'll be able to move forward."

City Attorney Mike Feuer has also defended the city's ban as "constitutional.'' He told City News Service that the lawsuit was "baseless."

"We'll fight this lawsuit and we'll win,'' Feuer told CNS.