US judge overturns California’s ban on assault weapons
By Jesse O’Neill | NY Post
A federal judge on Friday overturned California’s long-standing assault weapons ban on constitutional grounds.
US District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego ruled that the 1989 ban on military-style rifles deprives state residents of their right to bear arms.
“Under no level of heightened scrutiny can the law survive,” Benitez said.
“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 judge said in his ruling’s introduction.
Benitez issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law, with a stay of 30 days to give state lawyers time to appeal.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom slammed the decision as “a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period.”
Vowing to challenge the ruling, the Democrat said that Benitez’s Army knife comparison “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.”
Benitez ruled that the weapons were not extraordinarily dangerous and had legitimate uses for California citizens.
“This case is not about extraordinary weapons lying at the outer limits of Second Amendment protection. The banned ‘assault weapons’ are not bazookas, howitzers, or machine guns. Those arms are dangerous and solely useful for military purposes,” his ruling said.
The judge also pointed out that 185,569 assault weapons are registered in the state — in spite of the ban.
“This is an average case about average guns used in average ways for average purposes,” the ruling said. “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. The facts, however, do not support this hyperbole, and facts matter.”
“In California, murder by knife occurs seven times more often than murder by rifle,” he added.
The ruling comes on the heels of a 2019 class-action lawsuit filed by gun advocacy groups challenging California’s assault weapon ban.
The suit followed a spate of US mass shootings involving military-style weapons and was filed on behalf of enthusiasts that were banned from using high-capacity magazines in their legal rifles or pistols under California’s decades-old law.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said assault weapons were disproportionately used in mass shootings and attacks on police — and that barring them “furthers the state’s important public safety interests.”
Similar restrictions have been upheld by six other federal and appeals courts, the state argued.
President Biden called for the national ban to be reinstated after the March mass shooting at a Boulder, Colo., supermarket that left 10 people dead.
Sacramento officials are appealing two other pro-gun rulings by Benitez; a 2017 decision against the state’s ban on sales of magazines holding more than 10 bullets, and a 2020 ruling blocking background checks for those buying ammunition.
Both were ballot measures championed by Newsom and backed by voters in 2016.