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California: County Sheriffs Sue Los Angeles over Ordinance Prohibiting Possession of “Large-Capacity” Magazines

Friday, October 23, 2015

California: County Sheriffs Sue Los Angeles over Ordinance Prohibiting Possession of “Large-Capacity” Magazines

As previously reported, the City of Los Angeles has adopted an ordinance that prohibits the possession of standard capacity magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds. These magazines are possessed by millions of law-abiding Americans for a variety of legitimate purposes, including self-defense. This ordinance will not prevent violent crime.  Instead, it will limit the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners who choose these magazines to defend themselves and their families. 

Now, 30 duly elected California Sheriffs, two law enforcement organizations, the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA), and several other individuals have filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the ordinance. The lawsuit challenges the magazine possession ban on legal “preemption” grounds, because California state law specifically allows for the possession of such magazines.

Under the conditions of the ordinance, the mere possession of any “large-capacity” magazine within Los Angeles after November 19, 2015 will be a misdemeanor offense. Los Angeles residents must get rid of their banned magazines by that date. The lawsuit asks the court to stay enforcement of the ordinance while the matter is litigated, so that law-abiding city residents can maintain possession of their lawfully acquired property pending a resolution of the case. But if the court refuses to stay enforcement of the ordinance, Los Angeles residents who possess any “large-capacity” magazine generally have the following four options available to them: 

  • Option #1: Surrender all such magazines to the Los Angeles Police Department- Although state law allows you to sell or transfer any “large-capacity” magazine to any California peace officer, the ordinance as written only allows you to transfer all such magazines to the LAPD. If you choose to surrender your magazines, you must do so by November 18th, 2015. DO NOT attempt to surrender your magazines to law enforcement within Los Angeles after November 18th, as you will be in violation of the ordinance and could face a potential misdemeanor charge. 
  • Option #2: Sell or transfer all such magazines to a properly licensed person- There are limited options available to civilians under state law when transferring or selling “large-capacity” magazines. One of the few is to sell your magazines to a properly licensed firearm dealer in the state of California. 
  • Option #3: Remove all such magazines from the City of Los Angeles- If you are able to do so, you must remove your magazines from the City of Los Angeles before the ordinance takes effect. But you must also be careful not to unlawfully transfer the magazines to another person. To avoid doing so, only you can have access to the stored magazine (e.g., only you have the key to the safe or storage area where the magazines are kept outside of the city). Once outside of the city, you can also sell or transfer your magazines to any California peace officer. 
  • Option #4: Permanently alter all such magazines- The ordinance does not consider magazines that have been permanently altered in a way that will only allow them to accept 10 or less rounds to be “large capacity magazines.” Unfortunately, it is not clear what constitutes a “permanent” alteration.

 If you are a Los Angeles resident and you fail to exercise one of these options for any of your “large-capacity” magazines before the ordinance takes effect on November 19, 2015, you should contact an attorney experienced in firearms law to discuss your situation.

Significantly, the law doesn’t just apply to Los Angeles city residents. Non-resident gun owners must avoid traveling through any part of the city of Los Angeles while possessing any banned magazine. It is practically impossible to know all of the city’s exact boundaries, as illustrated by this map. The borders of Los Angeles intersect every major Southern California freeway. In some cases the city of Los Angeles completely surrounds other smaller cities, like Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. So anyone traveling out of Santa Monica or Beverly Hills, and anyone traveling through the city of Los Angeles with a banned magazine can be prosecuted.

Stay tuned for further information on whether or not the ordinance will be stayed pending resolution of the case. As the case progresses, you will be able to view all of the filings in the case here. In the meantime, please refer to the information below on ways you can help fund this lawsuit and others like it that seek to preserve and promote your Second Amendment rights.


Help Us Help You

Please help us fight for your right to choose to own a gun for sport, or to defend yourself and your family. The NRA and CRPA work together in California to fight for you, in cities and counties across the state, in regulatory agencies, and in the courts.  Even with the generous rates that our team of civil rights attorneys, legislative advocates, experts and consultants grant us, these ongoing efforts are still expensive. You can support our pro-Second Amendment efforts in California by donating to the NRA Legal Action Project.  All donations will be spent to specifically benefit California gun owners.

Second Amendment supporters should be careful about supporting litigation or other efforts promised by other individuals and groups that lack the experience, resources, skill, or legal talent to be successful. The NRA and CRPA national team of highly regarded civil rights attorneys, legislative advocates, and scholars has the experience, resources, skill and expertise needed to maximize the potential for victory in California’s often hostile political environments.

For a summary of some of the many actions the NRA and CRPA has taken on behalf of California gun owners, including the Peruta case, click here.          



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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.