A federal judge in San Diego has once again ruled that California’s 33-year-old ban on assault weapons is unconstitutional, citing the right to bear arms and a recent Supreme Court decision. This ruling has sparked controversy, with state officials vowing to appeal.
In a 79-page decision, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez emphasized the importance of lawful gun ownership and the need to balance public safety with individual rights.
The Right to Bear Arms
Judge Benitez’s decision draws on the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to “keep and bear arms.”
Benitez also references a 2022 Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which established that gun restriction measures must align with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.
Dangerous, But Useful
Highlighting the court’s stance on lawful gun ownership, Benitez wrote, “Like the Bowie Knife which was commonly carried by citizens and soldiers in the 1800s, ‘assault weapons’ are dangerous, but useful.”
Critique of California’s Ban
Benitez takes issue with California’s 1989 law, which prohibits the ownership of high-capacity, semi-automatic rifles, including the AR-15.
Infringing on Citizens
Benitez argues that this law allows a handful of criminals to dictate conduct and infringe on the freedom of law-abiding citizens.
“California’s answer to the criminal misuse of a few is to disarm its many good residents. That knee-jerk reaction is constitutionally untenable, just as it was 250 years ago,” he added.
The Attorney General’s Response
In response to the ruling, California Attorney General Rob Bonta immediately filed a notice of appeal, deeming the decision “dangerous and misguided.”
Weapons of War
Bonta stressed the need to keep “weapons of war” off the state’s streets to protect citizens from firearms that can cause mass casualties.
Keeping Citizens Safe
“Weapons of war have no place on California’s streets,” Bonta stated. “This has been state law in California for decades, and we will continue to fight for our authority to keep our citizens safe from firearms that cause mass casualties.”
Immediate Stay Granted
To address the legal uncertainties following his decision, Judge Benitez granted a stay requested by Attorney General Bonta.
This stay temporarily preserves California’s assault weapons restrictions until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit can hear the state’s appeal.
As a result, the ban remains in effect for the time being.
Background and Legal Context
Judge Benitez had previously declared California’s assault weapons ban unconstitutional in 2021.
However, the Ninth Circuit later vacated that ruling and ordered the judge to reconsider the case in light of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in the New York case.
Filing the Suit
The lawsuit that led to Benitez’s recent ruling was filed by several pro-gun advocacy groups, including the San Diego County Gun Owners Political Action Committee, California Gun Rights Foundation, Second Amendment Foundation, and Firearms Policy Coalition.
The Strictest Laws in the Nation
These groups aim to challenge California’s strict gun control measures, which are among the strictest in the nation.
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