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RI's high-capacity gun magazine bans stands after judge's ruling – The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE — As the deadline approaches for gun owners to give up their high-capacity firearm magazines or face legal consequences, a federal judge on Wednesday upheld a newly enacted state law banning magazines that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr. refused to grant a request by a Chepachet gun store and several Rhode Island gun owners for a preliminary injunction blocking the law, which on Sunday will make possession of a large-capacity gun magazine a felony in Rhode Island.
McConnell found that the plaintiffs Big Bear Hunting and Fishing Supply; three Rhode Island residents — Mary Brimer, James Grundy and Jonathan Hirons; and, a Newport homeowner who lives in Florida, Jeffrey Goyette, had not shown that they would suffer irreparable harm if the law was allowed to take effect, and that allowing its enforcement was in the public’s interest.
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“It is not entirely accurate to say that the victims of mass shootings are 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. “They were not chosen because of anything they did, but because of what they represented to a particular person with a gun and a lot of ammunition.”
“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.
The ruling came as Wednesday marked 10 years since a gunman shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty of those killed were children between 6 and 7 years old.
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The plaintiffs, he said, had not shown that the magazines represented “arms” as seen in the Second Amendment, nor had they presented credible evidence establishing them as a weapon of self-defense.
The Second Amendment protects the right to people to “keep and bear arms,” and at its core the right to self-defense, McConnell observed.
The ban was a reasonable and measured approach to restricting large-capacity magazines, which in practice easily convert handguns into semi-automatic weapons capable of rapid fire, he said.
He accepted the opinion of an expert for the state that throughout history “high capacity firearms … were understood to be weapons of war or anti-insurrection, not weapons of individual self defense.”
McConnell, likewise, rejected arguments that the law represented an unconstitutional “taking” without just compensation.
In ruling, the judge cited doctrine establishing that a regulatory restriction that is a valid exercise of police powers does not entitle a property owner to compensation, meaning that the policy is in the public interest, is reasonably designed to accomplish a purpose and is not overly burdensome. The prohibition, he said, was a reasonable response to the public safety interests of the state.
He relied, in part, on testimony from another state witness, Dr. Megan Ranney, an expert in emergency room medicine with a focus on the public health fallout from gun violence. Ranney produced evidence that the ability to spray bullets results in more injuries, often with multiple wounds, making treatment more complex and victims more numerous.
McConnell found that data produced by Ranney, though sparse, showed “a connection between employment of LCMs and increased injuries, both in number and seriousness.”
The judge determined that any burden placed on owners to sell, forfeit or modify their magazines under the law was “minor.”
“If this is even a burden at all, it pales in comparison to the substantial nature of the public safety interest at stake,” McConnell said.
State leaders on Wednesday praised McConnell’s 59-page opinion issued Wednesday afternoon.
“The legislation placing restrictions on high capacity magazines was carefully developed and thoroughly reviewed, and it was enacted after lengthy public testimony in both the Senate and the House Judiciary Committees,” Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said in an email. “We firmly believed that the restrictions are necessary, reasonable and in the best interests of public safety, and that they would be upheld in a court of law, just as similar provisions in other states have been upheld. We are grateful to Chief Judge John McConnell for his decision today.”
Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, who spoke in support of the gun restrictions at the State House, said Judge McConnell made the right call.
“We are pleased with the Court’s decision and are confident it is the correct ruling. We are still reviewing the decision and expect we will have additional comment very soon,” Brian Hodge, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said in a statement.
State lawmakers passed three gun-control bills — including one that will prohibit the possession of gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition — last session with the backing of Neronha and gun-safety advocates.
Days after Gov. Dan McKee signed the measures into law, the gun owners challenged the high-capacity magazine ban in federal court, arguing that it violated their Second Amendment rights and represented an unconstitutional “taking” of their property without just compensation.
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Under the law, owners of high-capacity magazines had 180 days to modify the banned components, surrender them to police or transfer them to people in states where such magazines are legal.
Anyone still in possession of an outlawed magazine after the grace period could face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000. 
Reaction to the court decision was swift from some gun-rights advocates. 
“We are very disappointed, because you’re taking people’s property, essentially,” said Brenda Jacob, the state lobbyist for the Rhode Island Revolver Association, which represents gun club members around the state.
While the judge ruled that the magazines did not meet the definition of “arms” as referred to in the Second Amendment, Jacob said the bullet-loading devices were an integral component to the operation of many firearms. 
It’s the equivalent, she said, of what would happen if you banned cellphone chargers. “They are part of the phone, and if you banned the chargers you would essentially be banning the phones.” 
“It’s a terrible thing,” she said. “We were hoping that the judge would make an informed decision.” 
Jacob said most of the gun owners she knew had been awaiting the judge’s decision before deciding what to do with their magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. 
What happens now? “I’m not going to speak for the thousands of gun owners out there.” 
One owner of high-capacity magazines, Burrillville Town Council President Donald Fox, said Wednesday he plans to defy the law by keeping his magazines and encouraged all other law-abiding magazine owners to do the same. 
“If the police want to come banging down my door” to confiscate his magazines they can, he said. “But I recommend all Rhode Islanders not give up their high-capacity magazines.”  
“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “It’s again one of these feel-good laws that really don’t make anybody safer and only make law-abiding citizens into felons.” 
Fox said he hopes the issue would reach the U.S. Supreme Court, where he said he was confident it would be found unconstitutional. 
It was not immediately clear Wednesday if the plaintiffs would appeal.
Reporters Katherine Gregg and Tom Mooney contributed to this story.

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