PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The chief judge for the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island rejected a challenge to the state’s high-capacity magazine ban, arguing that it is both reasonable and measured.
Chief Judge John McConnell Jr. said Wednesday that a Glocester firearms dealer and four local gun owners who requested a temporary restraining order “failed to persuade the court that it is unconstitutional.”
Gov. Dan McKee signed the high-capacity magazine ban into law back in June. The law, which will take effect Dec. 18, makes it a felony to own high-capacity magazines that contain more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
McConnell’s decision allows the state to enforce the ban come Sunday, even though the lawsuit requesting the statute be repealed is still pending.
In his denial of the temporary restraining order, McConnell said the victims of mass shootings are not “chosen randomly,” as was alluded to in the request.
“They are random in that their identities are usually not known to the shooter … but in actuality, victims have not been chosen randomly,” McConnell wrote. “They have been chosen because they were attending a synagogue in Pittsburgh or church in Sutherland Springs. Or because they were sitting in an elementary 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. 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.”
“It is perhaps inevitable that Rhode Island will one day be the scene of a mass shooting,” he continued. “The ban is a small, but measured attempt to mitigate the potential loss of life by regulating an instrument associated with mass slaughter.”
The lawsuit argues that the high-capacity magazine ban is unconstitutional because it violates the Second Amendment, as well as the takings clause under the Fifth Amendment and due process clause under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The firearms dealer listed in the request, Big Bear Fishing and Hunting, argued that the business will suffer irreparable harm, especially since a substantial amount of their inventory has since been rendered “worthless and unusable.”
The gun owners listed in the request said the new law goes beyond the high-capacity magazine ban.
“Banning magazines over 10 rounds is no more likely to reduce criminal abuse of guns than banning high horsepower engines is likely to reduce criminal abuse of automobiles,” the plaintiffs wrote. “To the contrary, the only thing the ban ensures is that a criminal unlawfully carrying a firearm with a magazine over 10 rounds will have a [potentially devastating] advantage over his law-abiding victim.”
“If left standing unchallenged, it would open the door to government’s ability to acquire private property, and obviate a takings clause issue by legislating under the guise of ‘public safety’ in times of public fear, media outrage, and great political discourse,” the request continues.
McConnell argued that the aforementioned irreparable harm “pales in comparison to the unspeakable devastation caused by mass shooters wildly spraying bullets without end into a crowd of bystanders.”
In response to the decision, R.I. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi said in a joint statement that the legislation was “carefully developed and thoroughly reviewed” prior to being signed into law.
“We firmly believe 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,” the statement reads.
Rhode Islanders were given a 180-day grace period to turn their high-capacity magazines over to police, sell them to out-of-state firearms dealers or permanently modify them to be incapable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Those who choose to surrender their high-capacity magazines can do so at their local police department or the Rhode Island State Police in one of two ways:
- Anonymously with no questions asked; or
- Documented for anyone who wishes to have a record or receipt of where, when and what was surrendered pursuant to this law.
Those who surrender their high-capacity magazines anonymously won’t be able to reclaim their devices should the law later be deemed unconstitutional.