Judge Deems California’s Assault Weapon Ban Unconstitutional

On Thursday, the same federal judge who struck down California’s assault weapons ban in 2013 ruled that the state’s efforts to outlaw sales of semiautomatic rifles run afoul of the Second Amendment.

San Diego’s U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez acknowledged that criminals frequently use high-powered weapons like AR-15 rifles, but he stressed that the guns are also possessed by law-abiding citizens who believe they need access to firearms for self-defense. The law turns them into criminals.

Benitez said, “The State of California proposes that its ‘assault weapon’ ban, the legislation challenged here, supports an essential public interest of disarming some mass murderers.” However, “more is needed” to sustain a ban.

The order is virtually identical to one the judge issued in 2021, in which he wrote that California’s ban on “assault weapons” was a “failed experiment.”

Benitez has invalidated numerous gun regulations in California. The state cannot forbid citizens from owning detachable magazines with more than ten bullets; he ruled just last month.

The recent ruling would nullify a slew of state laws prohibiting assault rifles. The state has ten days to file for a stay with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in preparation for an appeal of the judge’s ruling.

Attorney General Rob Bonta of California stated that an appeal has been lodged on behalf of his agency.

Bonta said in a statement on Thursday, the oft-repeated refrain that “Weapons of war” do not have a place on California streets.” He said California has had this rule on the books for decades, and its government will keep fighting for the right to enforce it to protect its population from potentially lethal firearms. Meanwhile, it is still against the law in California to own, sell, or transfer an assault weapon.

The AR-15 is not a weapon of war. It is a semi-automatic rifle. Soldiers would be severely disadvantaged in a ground war with an AR-15.

Attorney John Dillon, who represented the people who filed suit to repeal the statute, applauded the judge’s decision.

Dillon said in a statement released on Thursday that the court’s judgment was “constitutionally sound” and addressed the various shortcomings of the state’s arguments and “so-called explanations” for the illegal ban. To the end that the State is compelled to begin honoring the Second Amendment rights of our Plaintiffs, we will
continue to fight for them in any appeal.