Penal Code 32310 PC - Large-Capacity Magazines in California
In the State of California, the possession, sale, manufacture, or importation of large-capacity magazines is prohibited under Penal Code 32310 PC.
This law is part of the state's effort to reduce gun violence by restricting access to ammunition-feeding devices capable of holding more than ten rounds. However, the courts routinely review this law to determine whether it's constitutional.
A large-capacity magazine is any ammunition-feeding device that can hold more than ten rounds. However, under California law, it's not considered a large-capacity magazine if the feeding device was altered so that it can't hold more than ten rounds, a .22 caliber tube ammunition feeding device, and a tubular magazine contained in a lever-action firearm.
PC 32310 says, “Any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale or offers or exposes for sale, or gives, lends, buys, or receives any large-capacity magazine is punishable by imprisonment….”
(b) For purposes of this section, “manufacturing” includes both fabricating a magazine and assembling a magazine from a combination of parts, including the body, spring, follower, and floor plate or end plate, to be a fully functioning large-capacity magazine.
(c) any person who possesses any large-capacity magazine, regardless of the date the magazine was acquired, is guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine….”
(d) Any person who may not lawfully possess a large-capacity magazine commencing July 1, 2017, shall (1) Remove the large-capacity magazine from the state; (2) Sell the large-capacity magazine to a licensed firearms dealer; or (3) Surrender the large-capacity magazine to a law enforcement agency for destruction.”
Let's take a closer look below at this controversial law that seems to always be under review in an appeals court.
Legal Challenges to PC 32310
Since its introduction in 2000, Penal Code 32310 has faced numerous legal challenges. In 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that California could constitutionally prohibit the possession and sale of large-capacity magazines.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court recently vacated that ruling and asked the Ninth Circuit to revisit the law based on recent Supreme Court decisions on other firearms cases. At the time of this writing, the Ninth Circuit is still considering the ban; a decision is expected in 2023.
Critical Elements of Penal Code 32310
PC 32310 effectively criminalizes two activities:
- Manufacture/sale of large-capacity magazines: Penal Code 32310(a) PC makes it illegal to manufacture, import into California, offer for sale, lend, or give away a large-capacity magazine. This restriction applies to both individuals and businesses.
- Possession of large-capacity magazines: Under Penal Code 32310(c) PC, it is unlawful for any person in California to possess a large-capacity magazine.
To better understand this law, it is essential to clarify its legal definitions.
A large-capacity magazine is defined as any ammunition-feeding device accepting more than ten rounds of ammunition.
This includes detachable and fixed magazines and any devices that can be converted to accept more than ten rounds. As noted, the law does not apply to .22 caliber tube ammunition feeding devices or tubular magazines contained in a lever-action firearm.
Importing or Selling
This part of the law refers to bringing large-capacity magazines into California, offering them for sale or exchange, or producing them within the state. This includes online sales and shipping to California addresses.
This refers either to fabricating the magazine or assembling it from a combination of existing parts.
Possession refers to having a large capacity magazine in one's personal control, either directly or indirectly. It includes having the magazine in one's home, vehicle, or on their person.
Exceptions to the Rule
Specific individuals and entities are exempt from Penal Code 32310 PC provisions, as with other California firearms laws. These exemptions include law enforcement officers, military personnel, and licensed firearm dealers.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: David owns a licensed gun shop but quietly keeps a stock of large-capacity magazines in the back for his "preferred" customers who know to ask about them. David can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony under PC 32310(a).
EXAMPLE 2: Sam stores a gun and ammunition in a weapons locker in her home for her boyfriend. She is unaware that the magazines are large-capacity. While she could face charges under PC 32310(a), she may be able to cite a lack of knowledge as a valid defense.
What Are the Related Laws?
California Penal Code 16590 PC is the statute regulating generally prohibited weapons. It lists several weapons or ammunition that are normally prohibited. Some other related laws for Penal Code 32310 PC large-capacity magazines include the following:
- Penal Code 30210 PC - bullets with an explosive agent;
- Penal Code 30315 PC - armor-piercing bullets;
- Penal Code 30600 PC – assault weapons;
- Penal Code 30610 PC – possession of a .50 BMG rifle;
- Penal Code 33215 PC – short-barreled rifles and shotguns;
- Penal Code 29800 PC – felon with a firearm;
- Penal Code 30305(a)(1) PC – felon with ammunition;
- Penal Code 417 PC – brandishing a weapon;
- Penal Code 417.6 PC - brandishing a firearm causing injury;
- Penal Code 17500 PC - possess a deadly weapon to assault;
- Penal Code 25400 PC – carry a concealed firearm;
- Penal Code 25850 PC – carry a loaded firearm.
What Are the Penalties for PC 32310?
Penalties for violating PC 32310 depend on the nature of the offense—whether you're accused of manufacturing/selling/importing large-capacity magazines defined under PC 32310(a) or simple possession defined under PC 32310(c).
Manufacturing/selling: Violations of PC 32310(a) are "wobbler" offenses, meaning they can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony:
- For a misdemeanor: You could face up to 1 year in county jail and a fine.
- For a felony: You could face up to 3 years in prison and a fine.
Possession: Simple possession of a large-capacity magazine is a "wobblette" offense under PC 32310(c), meaning it can be charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor:
- For an infraction: You face a fine of $100 per magazine you possess.
- For a misdemeanor: You face the same fine as an infraction, plus up to 1 year in county jail.
What Are the Defenses for PC 32310?
When facing charges under Penal Code 32310, a good California criminal defense attorney will explore all available legal defenses, as discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that there was an unlawful search and seizure. The evidence may be deemed inadmissible in court if the large-capacity magazine was discovered during an illegal search. In this case, the charges may be dismissed or reduced.
Perhaps we can argue that there was a lack of knowledge, which asserts that you were unaware you possessed a large-capacity magazine. For this defense to be successful, your attorney must demonstrate that you genuinely believed the magazine was legal or did not know about its existence.
Perhaps we can argue that you have an exempt status: If the defendant falls under one of the legal exemptions under California law, they can say they are exempt from prosecution. For instance, a law enforcement officer or a licensed firearm dealer may be exempt from these restrictions.
You can contact our law firm to review the case details and legal options by phone or through the contact form. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, CA.