Judge rules California's decades-old assault weapon ban violates Second Amendment

Judge rules California's decades-old assault weapon ban violates Second Amendment

A federal judge in California this weekend has overturned the state's so-called "assault" weapons ban, which has been on the books for about thirty years, saying it violates the Second Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of the Southern District of California compared the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife in his ruling.

"Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a ideal combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment", Benitez wrote. SUB2000 rifles, center, for sale at Hiram's Guns / Firearms Unknown store in El Cajon, California, U.S., on Monday, April 26, 2021.

"Under no level of heightened scrutiny can the law survive", the San Diego-based Benitez said, according to the Associated Press.

Xaiver Becerra, the attorney general at the time-he has since become President Joe Biden's health secretary, and been replaced by Rob Bonta-argued that plaintiffs lacked standing and that all federal circuit courts had previously upheld the constitutionality of assault weapon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

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

"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.

"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", his statement said. "Instead, the firearms deemed "assault weapons" are fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles". However, these prohibited guns, like all guns, can be used for ill or for good.

California first restricted assault weapons in 1989, with multiple updates to the law since then. The banned "assault weapons" are not bazookas, howitzers, or machine guns. The third type is a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.

The lawsuit filed by the San Diego County Gun Owners Political Action Committee, California Gun Rights Foundation, Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition is among several by gun advocacy groups challenging California's firearms laws, which are among the strictest in the nation. California's attorney general had argued that assault weapons as defined by the law are more risky than other firearms and are disproportionately used in crimes and mass shootings.

The lawsuit said California is "one of only a small handful states to ban numerous most popular semiautomatic firearms in the nation because they possess one or more common characteristics, such as pistol grips and threaded barrels". "According to the Attorney General, 'assault weapons enable a shooter to fire more rounds rapidly in a given period with greater accuracy, increasing the likelihood that more individuals will be shot and suffer more numerous injuries.' The implied context is a mass shooting".

Benitez stated that "the banned "assault weapons" are not bazookas, howitzers, or machine guns" which are "dangerous and exclusively useful for military purposes", while assault weapons are "fairly ordinary, popular, modern". "The facts, however, do not support this hyperbole, and facts matter".

The judge also noted that "the "assault weapon" epithet is a bit of a misnomer".

"Guns and ammunition in the hands of criminals, tyrants and terrorists are unsafe; guns in the hands of lawabiding responsible citizens are better", he argued. "They could just as well be called "home defense rifles" or 'anti-crime guns'".

The comparison of the AR-15 to a versatile pocket knife favored by campers drew sharp criticism from California officials including Gov. Gavin Newsom, who called the AR-15 a "weapon of war". "Today's decision is fundamentally flawed, and we will be appealing it", Bonta said in a news release.

Related Articles