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LA City Council bans high-capacity ammunition magazines: Can they do that?

The council unanimously voted on Tuesday to outlaw the possession of gun magazines that can hold 10 or more rounds of ammunition. Gun rights groups say the move violates the Second Amendment.

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Los Angeles Police Department detective Ken Yueng inspects an assault rifle during a gun buyback program organized by Mayor Eric Garcetti's Gang Reduction and Youth Development Office in Los Angeles, Calif., December 14, 2013. The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to ban the possession of large-capacity gun magazines on Tuesday following San Francisco to become the second major city in California to take that step. The ordinance prohibits Los Angeles residents from possessing a handgun or rifle magazine that fits more than 10 rounds.

Kevork Djansezian/Reuters/File

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Despite strong opposition from guns rights groups, the Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban the possession of high-capacity firearm magazines. 

The new law, which was passed 12-0 Tuesday, makes it illegal to possess gun magazines that hold 10 or more rounds. Those who currently have the magazines will have 60 days from the time the law takes effect to sell, destroy, or take the clips out of the city.

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said he was eager to sign the measure, as it has the potential to save lives. 

Several guns rights groups have threatened to sue, saying that the new law violates the 2nd Amendment and is preempted by existing state law. 

High-capacity magazines have been the common thread in many mass shootings across the country over the years, including Newtown, Virginia Tech, and Columbine, said Juliet Leftwich, legal director for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, to the Los Angeles Times. Councilman Paul Krekorian, who led a 2-year push for the ban, referenced some of these shootings during a rally at Los Angeles City Hall before the vote.

High-capacity magazines “are in common use for self defense and they are overwhelmingly chosen for that purpose,” said Anna M. Barvir, an attorney whose firm represents the NRA and other guns rights groups, in a statement.  “Indeed, millions are in the hands of good American citizens. As such, they are fully protected by the Constitution.” 

Mr. Krekorian responded by saying, “If the NRA wants to sue us over this, bring it on,” at a celebratory rally following the vote, according to a Los Angeles Times report. 

“People who want to defend their families don’t need a 100-round drum magazine and an automatic weapon to do it,” Krekorian said. 

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Others have raised concerns about how effective the new law will be, since these magazines are still legal in nearby cities such as Glendale and Burbank. 

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“Bad people are going to do bad things, and they’ll do it regardless of whatever laws are in place,” said Chad Cheung, director of the CalGuns Shooting Sports Association, at the hearing on Tuesday.

The new rules are modeled on already-existing ordinances in San Francisco and Sunnyvale, Calif., both of which have withstood legal challenges thus far. New York State also passed a similar law in 2013 following the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

Mike McLively, a staff lawyer with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told The New York Times he hopes the Los Angeles law will have a ripple effect.

“This is the very kind of ammunition that allows more fatalities in a shorter time,” Mr. McLively said. “Local governments are saying we need to do everything we can to reduce mass shootings that we’re seeing with more and more frequency.”

This report includes material from the Associated Press.