California ban on assault weapons violates Second Amendment, federal judge rules

By Bethany Blankley | The Center Square

A federal judge has ruled that a 1989-era California ban on so-called “assault weapons” violates the Second Amendment.

“Under no level of heightened scrutiny can the law survive,” U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, a George W. Bush nominee, wrote in his 94-page ruling.

In Miller et al. v Bonta et al., he wrote that the California law “bans an entire class of very popular hardware – firearms that are lawful under federal law and under the laws of most states and that are commonly held by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”

California law categorizes three types of assault weapons, specifying which are legally owned and registered up until a certain date, and which are prohibited from being manufactured, used or sold in the state. Penalties for violating the laws range from misdemeanors to felony charges, carrying prison sentences of up to eight years.

Wikimedia Commons/Harald Hansen

Semiautomatic firearms like the battle rifle G3 and the M16A2 are labeled “assault weapons” by anti-gun-rights groups.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said after the ruling, “Overturning California’s assault weapon ban and comparing an AR-15 to a SWISS ARMY KNIFE is a disgusting slap in the face to those who have lost loved ones to gun violence. This is a direct threat to public safety and innocent Californians. We won’t stand for it.”

The state is appealing the ruling, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said, adding that, “There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with swiss army knives.”

California resident James Miller, who has a concealed carry permit, sued the state in 2019. His complaint states that he seeks to use “his lawfully acquired large-capacity magazine(s) in his California-compliant, ‘fixed magazine rifle.’” However, he “is prevented from lawfully doing so without risk of persecution resulting in injury to his life and liberty; and the unlawful confiscation and loss of his personal property because said use would reclassify his rifle as a prohibited ‘assault weapon.’”

“This is an average case about average guns used in average ways for average purposes,” the judge ruled. “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.

According to California data, 185,569 assault weapons are registered in the state despite the ban.

Benitez argues that the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes “that the Second Amendment guarantee includes a right to keep and bear firearms that have ‘some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia,’” quoting from Miller’s filing.

He also referenced District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the court broadly found that the Constitution protects the rights to own guns.

“The Heller test asks: is a modern rifle commonly owned by law-abiding citizens for a lawful purpose? For the AR-15 type rifle the answer is ‘yes.’ The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and keep the popular AR-15 rifle and its many variants do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense at home. Under Heller, that is all that is needed,” Benitez wrote.

Benitez has drawn ire from some Sacramento officials who already appealed two of his previous gun-related rulings. In 2017, Benitez ruled against the state’s ban on sales of magazines holding more than 10 bullets, and in 2020 he blocked a measure requiring background checks for those buying ammunition.

Six other states have enacted assault rifle bans. A 1994 federal ban expired in 2004, which President Joe Biden has pledged to reinstate.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Harald Hansen

5 thoughts on “California ban on assault weapons violates Second Amendment, federal judge rules

  1. U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez followed “settled law”

    McDonald v Chicago 2010 is a landmark Supreme Court case that is important to understand. In its most basic form, the decision dismisses the proposition that a State (e.g., NY, IL, CT) or lower government (e.g., Chicago) can supersede or ignore the rights guaranteed in the Constitution, specifically the Second Amendment.

    “None of the Court’s precedents forecloses the Court’s interpretation. Neither United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542 , nor Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252 , refutes the individual-rights interpretation. United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174 , does not limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia purposes, but rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those used by the militia, i.e., those in common use for lawful purposes.”

    This ruling clarifies the principle that Americans can keep and bear arms that are equivalent to those in common use by the National Guard, which the court considers an example of a “well regulated militia.” We have a RIGHT to the SAME arms and accessories issued to the National Guard that they use in defense of the United States.

    The National Guard’s rifle of issue (and rifle in common use) is the 5.56 x 45mm (.223) M16A2 a lightweight, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed, shoulder or hip-fired weapon designed for either automatic fire (3-round bursts) or semiautomatic fire (single shot) through the use of a selector lever and has a magazine capacity of 30 rounds. Civilians can only own (except with the purchase of a special tax stamp from BATFE) the semiautomatic version called the M15 or AR15 not the M16 military rifle version.

  2. The news media and lying politicians once again twist the truth to shock their useful idiots. The judge did not compare as equals the AR15 and a Swiss army knife. He stated that AR15s are as readily available as are swiss army knives and both could be found as useful tools when employed or needed for their specific jobs. All day I’ve seen the quote about the judge equating the two as equals and it is a lie. This is how the public is dumbed down by agenda driven political hacks and their adoring media robots. As you can see, none of the screamers in the media presented any facts to counter the judges in-depth 96 page ruling because they can’t. There are as many as 35 to 40 million AR15 sporting rifles already sold and owned in this country but California is not part of the USA. It has been taken over by totalitarian controllers who have ruined the state and are determined to ruin American Freedom. Thank God for judges who stand for the Bill of Rights and the constitution.

  3. Amendment II

    “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

    According to the plain wording,all and any gun control law is un Constitutional and the founders warning to any would be petty tyrant in the future who would violate/Infringe upon it.

    So yes Judge Benitez did the nation and people of California a great favor as his decision and research in the lead up to the decision will be used in many future 2 nd. amendment cases up to and including SCOTUS. If you haven’t read the decision you owe it to yourself to do so.–%20Miller%2020210604.pdf

  4. The US Constitution states all people have the right to bear arms.
    That implies effective arms, i.e., not just BB guns.

    In Europe, the nobles bore arms and employed trained, heavily armed knights with armor and armored horses.

    They were a terror to behold by peasants, just as our police in armored vehicles, are a terror to behold.

    The people/peasants were not allowed to bear arms, and therefore were easily subjugated by the ruling classes, FOR CENTURIES, until the French and other REVOLUTIONS.

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