Case information: Fyock, et al. v. City of Sunnyvale, et al., No. 13-05807 (9th Cir. amicus brief filed June 24, 2014)
At Issue: This case challenges the constitutionality of the City of Sunnyvale’s ordinance which bans the possession of large capacity ammunition magazines (defined as magazines which can accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition). The sale and manufacture of such magazines has been prohibited in California for many years, but their actual possession is not prohibited at the state level. Plaintiffs, individual residents of Sunnyvale who wish to possess the prohibited magazines, argue that the ordinance violates the Second Amendment as a complete ban on an entire category of firearms. The district court rejected this argument, noting that the ordinance prohibited only a subset of available magazines and that large capacity magazines are disproportionately used in mass shootings and attacks on law enforcement officers and are “hardly crucial” for self-defense within the home. Plaintiffs appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit.
The Law Center’s Brief: The Law Center’s Ninth Circuit brief, joined by Cleveland School Remembers, highlights three important threshold arguments for why the City of Sunnyvale’s ordinance does not implicate the Second Amendment. First, the brief argues that large capacity ammunition magazines fall outside of the protection of the Second Amendment because they are not “arms.” Next, the Second Amendment only protects those arms “in common use at the time” and the brief argues that large capacity magazines are not “in common use” in California, especially since their sale and manufacture has been banned for nearly two decades. Third, based on their disproportionate use in criminal activity and lack of suitability for self-defense purposes, large capacity magazines are “dangerous and unusual” weapons which fall outside of the Second Amendment. Finally, the brief argues that, even if the ordinance does implicate the Second Amendment, the law easily satisfies intermediate scrutiny—the level of judicial review overwhelmingly applied to Second Amendment claims—because it is reasonably related to the City of Sunnyvale’s important interest in protecting public safety and reducing crime.