California “Assault Weapon” Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez declared California’s statutes regarding so called “Assault Weapons” to be unconstitutional. In a significant ruling in the case Miller v. Bonta, which was filed by a coalition of pro-Civil Rights groups including the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), the Firearms Policy Coalition, California Gun Rights Foundation, San Diego County Gun Owners PAC, Poway Weapons and Gear, Gunfighter Tactical, LLC, and several private citizens including James Miller, for whom the case is named, Judge Benitez  shredded California gun control laws regarding modern semi-automatic rifles in a 94-page ruling.

Executive Vice President of the SAF, Alan M. Gottlieb said, “It is clear the judge did his homework on this ruling, and we are delighted with the outcome.” In his opening paragraph, Judge Benitez observes, “Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and United States v Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR- 15 type rifle. Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.

Later in the ruling, Judge Benitez observes, “The Second Amendment protects modern weapons.” A few pages later, he adds, “Modern rifles are popular. Modern rifles are legal to build, buy, and own under federal law and the laws of 45 states.” Perhaps most importantly, the judge notes that California’s ban on such firearms “has had no effect” on shootings in the state. “California’s experiment is a failure,” Judge Benitez says.

“Under no level of heightened scrutiny can the law survive,” Judge Benitez said. He issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law but stayed it for 30 days to give state Attorney General Rob Bonta time to appeal. Not surprisingly, California Gov. Gavin Newsom condemned the decision, calling it “a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period.” On the judge’s comparison of the AR-15 to the Swiss Army Knife, the Governor said it “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. We’re not backing down from this fight, and we’ll continue pushing for common sense gun laws that will save lives.”

Of course, the Governor completely ignores the statistics that demonstrate that very few people are killed by any long gun, much less AR-15s. Californians are 7-times more likely to die from a knife than from any rifle and are three times as likely to die from hands or feet. In 2019, California saw 252 people murdered with a knife, while 34 people were killed with some type of rifle – not necessarily an AR15.

Of course, “common sense” has never had anything to do with California’s gun laws.

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