Roger Benitez Federal Judge overturns California ban on assault weapons, likening AR-15 rifle to that of the Swiss knife. A 30 day window to appeal decision is reserved.
A federal judge on Friday overturned California’s 32 year ban on assault weapons 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 second amendment 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.
Direct threat to public safety?
Judge Benitez wrote that the case was about ‘what should be a muscular constitutional right and whether a state can force a gun policy choice that impinges on that right with a 30-year-old failed experiment.’
‘It should be an easy question and answer,’ Judge Benitez, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush, continued. ‘Government is not free to impose its own new policy choices on American citizens where constitutional rights are concerned.’
California Gov. Gavin Newsom condemned 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.’
In his 94-page ruling, the judge spoke favorably of modern weapons, stating 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,’ the judge’s ruling stated.
The judge pointed out that 185,569 assault weapons are registered in the state — in spite of the ban.
AR-15 a favorite among mass shooters
‘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,’ the judge 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.’
California AG files to appeal assaults weapons ban reversal
Bonta on Friday filed to appeal the lifting of California’s ban on assault weapons.
‘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,’ he said.
Similar restrictions have been upheld by six other federal and appeals courts, the state argued.
Six other states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, have assault rifle bans on the books. A 1994 federal ban expired in 2004.
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.
Of note, 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.
Gun rights activists celebrate
Both were ballot measures championed by Newsom and backed by voters in 2016.
Friday’s ruling to lift California’s weapons assault ban has since led to gun rights activists celebrating
Brandon Combs, the president of the Firearms Policy Coalition, a group in Sacramento that helped bring the lawsuit to court, said in a statement that the ruling ‘held what millions of Americans already know to be true: Bans on so-called ‘assault weapons’ are unconstitutional and cannot stand.’
Reflected one commentator on social media, ‘What could possibly go wrong?’
Welcome to a brave new America…