A federal judge in Rhode Island on Wednesday upheld a newly enacted state law banning the possession of large-capacity magazines that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
The decision came following a request by a Chepachet gun store and several Rhode Island gun owners for a preliminary injunction blocking the law, which they argue violates their constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, among other things.
However, U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr. on Wednesday said that the plaintiffs, Big Bear Hunting and Fishing Supply; three Rhode Island residents named in the lawsuit as Mary Brimer, James Grundy, and Jonathan Hirons; and a Newport homeowner who lives in Florida, Jeffrey Goyette, had failed to persuade the court that the law is unconstitutional and that they would suffer irreparable harm if it was allowed to take effect.
The judge also said that allowing the law to be enforced was in the public’s interest.
Gov. Dan McKee, a Democrat, signed the high-capacity magazine ban into law in June, noting at the time that Rhode Island was one of the few states to introduce or bolster gun safety legislation aimed at reducing and preventing gun violence in the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas.
The law, which went into effect on Dec. 18, makes it a felony to possess or own large-capacity magazines that contain more than 10 rounds of ammunition, which the governor said have “enabled numerous mass shootings” across the country.
New Law Could Cause Firearm Business ‘Irreparable Harm’
A string of other measures were also signed into law, including raising the legal age to purchase firearms or ammunition in Rhode Island from 18 to 21, with exceptions for police and other law enforcement personnel, and prohibiting the open carrying of any loaded rifle or shotgun in public.
However, the high-capacity magazine ban soon prompted a lawsuit from the plaintiffs, who claimed that they were now being “forced to dispose of their privately owned, and legally acquired Standard Capacity Magazines by December 18, 2022, without receiving any compensation, or rights with or without conditions of continued ownership to keep their lawfully acquired property.”
“Should the Citizen Plaintiffs not comply with this requirement, each can now be convicted of a felony, and potentially face five (5) years of incarceration. Further, certain firearms, due to the expiration of their production, and for other reasons, cannot be modified for use with a smaller capacity magazine,” the plaintiffs wrote.
Elsewhere, Big Bear Hunting and Fishing Supply, the firearms dealer listed in the lawsuit, argued that the business would suffer irreparable harm as a result of the law, noting that large-capacity magazines make up a substantial amount of their inventory.
Despite their assertions, Judge McConnell Jr. said on Wednesday that the plaintiffs had failed to show that the magazines represented “arms” as stated in the Second Amendment, or presented credible evidence establishing the magazines as a weapon of self-defense, according to The Boston Globe.
The judge also wrote that large-capacity magazines easily be used to convert handguns into semi-automatic weapons capable of rapid fire.
Additionally, McConnell noted that victims of mass shootings are not “chosen randomly” but “because of what they represented to a particular person with a gun and a lot of ammunition.”
‘Victims Have Not Been Chosen Randomly’
“True, they are random in that their identities are usually not known to the shooter, and it appears to matter not to the shooter whether the next one killed is a particular person or the woman standing next to him. But in actuality, victims have not been chosen randomly.
“They have been chosen because they are attending a synagogue in Pittsburgh or church in Sutherland Spring. Or because they are sitting in a school classroom in Newtown or a high school classroom in Parkland. Or because they were at a concert in Las Vegas or a nightclub in Orlando,” McConnell said.
“Consistent with its obligation to protect public safety, but consonant with its fealty to the Constitution, the Rhode Island General Assembly has responded with, among other firearms regulations, the [large-capacity magazine] Ban. It is inevitable that Rhode Island will one day be the scene of a mass shooting. The LCM Ban is a small but measured attempt to mitigate the potential loss of life by regulating an instrument associated with mass slaughter,” the judge wrote.
McConnell’s decision allowed the state to enforce the ban, despite the lawsuit requesting a temporary injunction against the measure still pending.
State leaders, including Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, praised McConnell’s decision, calling it “carefully developed and thoroughly reviewed” and adding that the restrictions are “necessary, reasonable and in the best interests of public safety,” in a statement to The Boston Globe.
However, opponents, including the Burrillville Town Council chairman Donald Fox, shared their disappointment over the ruling.
“An Obama-appointed judge who believes in legislating from the bench, rather than upholding the US Constitution, made a bad ruling. No surprise,” Fox said in a statement to The Boston Globe.
“I would recommend that RI residents not hand in their magazines. I believe the ban will eventually make its way to the US Supreme Court and be overturned for what it is, unconstitutional,” Fox added.