Federal Judge Overturns California’s Longtime Assault Weapons Ban

A federal judge on Friday overturned California’s assault weapons ban, though the state is planning to appeal the decision, The New York Times reports.

California banned the sale of assault weapons in 1989 but District Court Judge Roger Benitez called the prohibition a “failed experiment” and ruled that the ban is “hereby declared unconstitutional and shall be enjoined.”

Benitez stayed his ruling for 30 days to allow state Attorney General Rob Bonta to appeal the decision.

Benitez, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote that the lawsuit filed by a gun owner and backed a gun-rights group is 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,” he said. “Government is not free to impose its own new policy choices on American citizens where constitutional rights are concerned.”

Newsom blasts ruling:

California Gov. Gavin Newsom called the ruling “a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians” and questioned the judge’s opinion comparing the AR-15 to a “Swiss Army Knife,” which the governor said “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,” Newsom said.

Bonta vowed to appeal the decision, which he called “fundamentally flawed.”

“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 in a statement. “We need to take action to end gun violence now. We will fight this ruling and continue to advocate for and defend common sense gun laws that will save lives.”

Benitez blocked earlier law:

Benitez previously blocked a California law in 2017 that would have banned magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

A three-judge appeals panel upheld the ruling in a split decision but it will now be reheard by an 11-judge panel after an appeals judge argued that the ruling conflicted with six other appeals courts.

Ari Freilich, the state policy director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, called the ruling “alarming and wrong.”

“It’s also an insult to families across the nation, on today of all days, who have seen in the most painful way possible how dangerous and deadly assault weapons are,” he said.


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