A federal judge has overturned California’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons, calling it a “failed experiment” that violates people’s constitutional right to bear arms.
U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego ruled on Friday that the state’s definition of illegal military-style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons commonly allowed in most other states and by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Under no level of heightened scrutiny can the law survive,” Benitez said. He issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law but stayed it for 30 days to give state Attorney General Rob Bonta time to appeal.
Gov. Gavin Newsom condemned the decision, calling it “a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period.”
In his 94-page ruling, the judge spoke favorably of modern weapons and said they were overwhelmingly used for legal reasons.
“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.
That 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,” Newsom said in a statement. “We’re not backing down from this fight, and we’ll continue pushing for common-sense gun laws that will save lives.”
Bonta called the ruling flawed and said it will be appealed.
California first restricted assault weapons in 1989, with multiple updates to the law since then.