California's 32-yr assault weapons ban overturned

Marco Green
June 6, 2021

On Friday night, a federal judge struck down California's decades-long ban on "assault weapons", ruling that the ban violates the Second Amendment as understood under the precedents of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and United States v. Miller (1939).

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego ruled that the state's definition of illegal military-style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons commonly allowed in most other states and by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state attorney general's office argued that by legal definition, assault weapons are more unsafe than other firearms and are chosen when criminals commit crimes, mass shootings and attack law enforcement.

Xaiver Becerra, the attorney general at the time-he has since become President Joe Biden's health secretary, and been replaced by Rob Bonta-argued that plaintiffs lacked standing and that all federal circuit courts had previously upheld the constitutionality of assault weapon restrictions like the laws in question.

"Today's decision is a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period", he said in a statement. But Benitez said the guns are overwhelmingly owned for legal purposes.

"My daughter is in a cemetery because a Swiss Army Knife was not used, because it was an AR-15", he said. "As the son of a judge, I grew up with deep respect for the judicial process and the importance of a judge's ability to make impartial fact-based rulings, but the fact that this judge compared the AR-15 - a weapon of war that's used on the battlefield - to a Swiss Army Knife completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who've lost loved ones to this weapon". Twice as many modern rifles were sold the same year.

"One is to be forgiven if one is persuaded by news media and others that the nation is awash with murderous AR-15 assault rifles", he said. "The facts, however, do not support this hyperbole, and facts matter", he wrote.

He handed down the two page ruling in response to a lawsuit filed against the State of California by James Miller, Patrick Russ, Ryan Peterson and the the San Diego County Gun Owners Political Action Committee. These and other points make the Swiss Army knife comparison far more reasonable than it appears at first blush.

"In his order today, Judge Benitez held what millions of Americans already know to be true: Bans on so-called "assault weapons" are unconstitutional and can not stand", said Brandon Combs the president of the group, in a statement. These are not new phrases. "You took the language from the gun lobby to write this opinion".

"Even in California, despite being banned for 20 to 30 years, according to the State's own evidence, there are 185,569 "assault weapons" now registered with the California Department of Justice", he noted. "It is wrong. Assault weapons were designed by the military to kill people, to kill a lot of people, to kill a lot of people quickly".

The plaintiffs successfully argued that California's use of the term "assault weapons" was 'a politically-concocted pejorative term created to suggest that there is an inherently unlawful or illegitimate basis for owning otherwise common firearms protected by the Second Amendment'.

"In his order today, Judge Benitez held what millions of Americans already know to be true: Bans on so-called "assault weapons" are unconstitutional and can not stand", said FPC President Brandon Combs.

The Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), a nonprofit that advocates for constitutional rights, said the ruling was the correct one.

"This case is not about extraordinary weapons lying at the outer limits of Second Amendment protection".

The National Rifle Association called the judge's decision "well-reasoned and principled" and said it "demonstrates the importance of appointing judges who accurately apply the original meaning of our Constitution".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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