A federal judge in the Southern District of California ruled late on Friday that California’s controversial “assault weapons” ban is unconstitutional.
“This case is not about extraordinary weapons lying at the outer limits of Second Amendment protection,” Judge Roger T. Benitez wrote. “The banned ‘assault weapons’ are not bazookas, howitzers, or machineguns. Those arms are dangerous and solely useful for military purposes. Instead, the firearms deemed ‘assault weapons’ are fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles. This is an average case about average guns used in average ways for average purposes.”
“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,” Benitez continued. “Federal Bureau of Investigation murder statistics do not track assault rifles, but they do show that killing by knife attack is far more common than murder by any kind of rifle. In California, murder by knife occurs seven times more often than murder by rifle. For example, according to F.B.I. statistics for 2019, California saw 252 people murdered with a knife, while 34 people were killed with some type of rifle – not necessarily an AR-15. A Californian is three times more likely to be murdered by an attacker’s bare hands, fists, or feet, than by his rifle. In 2018, the statistics were even more lopsided as California saw only 24 murders by some type of rifle. The same pattern can be observed across the nation.”
The ruling was the result of a 2019 lawsuit filed by the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) to challenge California’s Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA), which banned popular semiautomatic firearms.
As noted by FPC, the order included an injunction against “Defendant Attorney General Rob Bonta, and his officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and those persons in active concert or participation with him, and those duly sworn state peace officers and federal law enforcement officers who gain knowledge of this injunction order or know of the existence of this injunction order,” preventing them “from implementing or enforcing” the following:
- California Penal Code §§ 30515(a)(1) through (8) (defining an “assault weapon” by prohibited features);
- § 30800 (deeming those “assault weapons” a public nuisance);
- § 30915 (regulating those “assault weapons” obtained by bequest or inheritance);
- § 30925 (restricting importation of those “assault weapons” by new residents);
- § 30945 (restricting use of those registered “assault weapons”) ;
- §30950 (prohibiting possession of those “assault weapons” by minors); and,
- the penalty provisions §§ 30600, 30605 and 30800 as applied to “assault weapons” defined in Code §§ 30515(a)(1) through (8).
“In his order today, Judge Benitez held what millions of Americans already know to be true: Bans on so-called ‘assault weapons’ are unconstitutional and cannot stand,” FPC President Brandon Combs said. “This historic victory for individual liberty is just the beginning, and FPC will continue to aggressively challenge these laws throughout the United States. We look forward to continuing this challenge at the Ninth Circuit and, should it be necessary, the Supreme Court.”
Benitez slammed the state of California, which is run by Democrats, for infringing of American’s constitutionally protected rights.
“You might not know it, but this case 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,” Benitez wrote. “It should be an easy question and answer. Government is not free to impose its own new policy choices on American citizens where Constitutional rights are concerned.”
“California may certainly conceive of a policy that a modern rifle is dangerous in the hands of a criminal, and that therefore it is good public policy to keep modern rifles out of the hands of every citizen,” Benitez continued. “The Second Amendment stands as a shield from government imposition of that policy. There is only one policy enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Guns and ammunition in the hands of criminals, tyrants and terrorists are dangerous; guns in the hands of lawabiding responsible citizens are better. To give full life to the core right of self-defense, every law-abiding responsible individual citizen has a constitutionally protected right to keep and bear firearms commonly owned and kept for lawful purposes.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.