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L.A. looks to ban possession of high-capacity gun magazines

May 03, 2013|By David Zahniser | This post has been corrected. See below for details.

The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to draft a law prohibiting the possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines, sparking lawsuit threats from two gun rights organizations.

On an 11-0 vote, the council called for an ordinance labeling the magazines a public nuisance and “an immediate threat to the public health.” Although the state already has a ban on the sale and transfer of high-capacity magazines, residents can still legally own them.

Before the vote, council members described the measure as a response to an array of mass shootings, including the massacre of 26 people -- many of them children -- at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.

“Sadly, we’ve seen too many situations where people are attacking innocent people over and over and over,” said Councilman Dennis Zine, a retired police officer.

City lawyers said they expect a vote on the ordinance next week. Meanwhile, gun rights organizations have warned that they will sue over the ordinance.

The Calguns Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group, contends that the ordinance violates the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and is preempted by state law, which allows possession of high-capacity magazines.

“It is important to note that the city’s proposal is akin to its previous ban on ‘assault weapons’ -- a ban that was repealed by the City Council in the face of preemption litigation,” said attorney Jason Davis in a letter sent Wednesday on behalf of Calguns and the California Assn. of Federal Firearms Licensees Inc., a trade association for gun retailers, manufacturers and collectors.

State law defines a high-capacity magazine as one that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The ordinance is aimed at allowing police to confiscate such magazines.

Councilman Paul Krekorian proposed the ammunition law three months ago after looking into issues surrounding the Sandy Hook tragedy.

“If that gunman hadn’t had high-capacity magazines, there would have been a better option for some of those children to escape,” he said.

[For the record, 6:04 p.m. May 3: An earlier version of this post said the ban on high-capacity gun magazines had been passed when in fact the 11-0 vote was to draft an ordinance proposing the ban.]

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