District Judge Overrules Three Decade Old Ban On Assault Weapons In California

Written by Carmine Sabia

OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion




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A landmark decision on gun rights came this week that put an end to a decades long ban on what Democrats define as assault rifles in California.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego overruled the three decade old ban on assault rifles in the state of California. NBC News reported.

“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” the judge said in his decision on Friday.

“Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR15 type rifle,” he said. “Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.”

“Government is not free to impose its own new policy choices on American citizens where Constitutional rights are concerned,” he said.

Democrat California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has his own issues as a recall effort against him is continuing, was furious with the decision.

“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,” the governor said.

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California State Attorney General Rob Bonta said that he would appeal the judge’s decision.

“Today’s decision is fundamentally flawed, and we will be appealing it. There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with swiss army knives — especially on Gun Violence Awareness Day and after the recent shootings in our own California communities. We need to take action to end gun violence now. We will fight this ruling and continue to advocate for and defend common sense gun laws that will save lives,” he said.

But the decision was celebrated by The Firearms Policy Coalition who backed the lawsuit.

“We look forward to continuing this challenge at the Ninth Circuit and, should it be necessary, the Supreme Court,” it said.

The ruling came as Bonta recognized “Gun Violence Awareness Day.” “In California, we have strong gun laws developed with the public’s safety in mind,” he said in a statement earlier Friday.

Assault weapons as defined by the law are more dangerous than other firearms and are disproportionately used in crimes, mass shootings and against law enforcement, with more resulting casualties, the state attorney general’s office argued, and barring them “furthers the state’s important public safety interests.”

The judge in the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of California cited multiple precedents to bolster his decision, although some experts and gun control advocates have long argued the authors of the Second Amendment could never have imagined a weapon originally designed for modern warfare being used for personal defense…

Benitez stayed his own permanent injunction against the state’s prohibition for 30 days in order to give the attorney general time to appeal.

California first prohibited assault weapons in 1989 and expanded its definition to cover more firearms over the years.

Judge Benitez is a conservative who was appointed by former President George w. Bush in 2003.

In 2017 the judge blocked a California law that would have banned gun magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. His decision in that case was upheld  by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last year.

“But even well-intentioned laws must pass constitutional muster,” Judge Kenneth K. Lee said in the decision. “California’s near-categorical ban of LCMs strikes at the core of the Second Amendment — the right to armed self defense.”

“Its scope is so sweeping that half of all magazines in America are now unlawful to own in California,” he said. “Even law-abiding citizens, regardless of their training and track record, must alter or turn over to the state any LCMs that they may have legally owned for years — or face up to a year in jail.”