With the recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez that California’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” is unconstitutional, lawyers on both sides of the debate have sprung into high gear. The decision serves as an assault weapon ban repeal, delivering massive potential in setting precedence.
State Appeals California Assault Weapon Ban Repeal
In no uncertain terms, Benitez, of the United State District Court for the Southern District of California, ruled in the case Miller v. Bonta that the law must be vacated. And in doing so, he ruffled a lot of anti-gun feathers in the Golden State.
“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” Benitez wrote in his decision. “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.”
Benitez’s comparison of semi-auto rifles to a Swiss Army knives was too much for anti-gun California Gov. Gavin Newsom to take.
“As the son of a judge, I grew up with deep respect for the judicial process and the importance of a judge’s ability to make impartial fact-based rulings,” Newsom said in a released statement. “But 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. We’re not backing down from this fight, and we’ll continue pushing for common sense gun laws that will save lives.”
Where We Go From Here?
The question remains whether a court should stay the ruling, keeping the gun outlawed until the state presents its case to the appeals court. On Tuesday, 22 state attorneys general filed an amicus brief saying the answer to that question should remain “no.”
“The Amici States the Attorneys General serve are among the forty-five states that permit their citizens to build, buy and own ‘modern rifles’ and have advanced their compelling interests in promoting public safety, preventing crime and reducing criminal firearm violence without banning modern rifles in the manner that the State of California has here,” the brief states.
It continued: “The experience in Arizona and other states shows that modern rifles are common to the point of ubiquity among law-abiding gun owners and their use promotes public safety. Calling modern rifles “assault weapons” comprise a misnomer. Law-abiding citizens most often use the platform for personal protection, target shooting or sport shooting. There is nothing sinister about citizens keeping or bearing a modern rifle. Law-abiding citizens keeping and bearing modern rifles benefit public safety. They counter-balance the threat of illegal gun violence and help make our homes and streets safer.”
States whose attorney general signed onto the brief include Arizona, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
A day later, the state of California filed a reply brief in support of the state’s “emergency motion” to stay the enforcement of the injunction. It insisted that modern semi-auto rifles were, indeed, criminal weapons that should remain outlawed.
“There is nothing farcical or absurd about saving lives by preventing criminals—especially those who would perpetrate a mass shooting—from obtaining ‘exceptionally lethal weapons of war,’” the brief stated, then went on to be even more absurd. “Plaintiffs would apparently require states to allow individuals to keep and bear any dangerous weapon—from assault weapons to M-16s to bazookas—merely because the weapon’s lethal features might theoretically contribute to self-defense in some circumstances.”
It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that such a statement is a classic anti-gunner strategy to compare apples to oranges in order to create confusion and draw support for their side of the debate. Of course, the “assault weapons” the California law prohibits derive from simple semi-auto rifles, owned by millions of law-abiding Americans. Conversely, most Americans don’t own M-16s or bazookas.
We’ll continue to follow this important case as it works its way through the court system.