With limited exceptions, California law has prohibited anyone from possessing an assault weapon since 1989. A decision in a recent case challenging its legality from a controversial federal judge could come out this week, likely striking it down, watchers say.
Kostas Moros, a lawyer representing the California Rifle and Pistol Association, told ABC7 that the case’s final response briefs are due Tuesday, and the judge, Judge Roger Benitez, could issue his ruling any time after that. Both supporters and opponents in the gun control debate anticipate that Benitez, a judge with a history of ruling against California's gun control measures, will likely overturn the state law.
As early as this week, a federal judge could once again rule to overturn California's longstanding ban on assault weapons. https://t.co/RfkxQV7UM4— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) February 21, 2023
The state of California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States. The assault weapons ban prohibits the sale, transfer, and ownership of certain firearms that are considered to be assault weapons, including semi-automatic rifles with certain features such as detachable magazines and pistol grips
Judge Benitez has, in fact, ruled on the assault rifle ban before — he struck down the law in 2021, but a higher court reinstated the law soon after.
However, this new ruling comes at a precarious time in the legal gun-rights landscape: A Supreme Court decision last June nullified a 1911 New York State law that required applicants for a license to carry a concealed pistol on their person to show "proper cause.”
This conservative majority Supreme Court opinion, known as the Bruen decision, has set a new constitutional standard for gun restrictions, according to Politico. PBS reported that it essentially put in place a new precedent: Judges must consider whether a gun restriction is consistent with America’s “historical tradition of firearm regulation,” rather than whether it serves public interests like enhancing public safety.
That could jeopardize California’s strict gun restrictions, which keep the state’s gun deaths at the eighth-lowest rate of gun deaths, according to Everytown USA. Gun-rights groups are taking advantage of this uncharted legal territory, with worrying repercussions for more challenges on California's gun laws, such as one on its ban on certain magazine clips.
ABC7 reported that Governor Newsom acknowledged these factors when he announced new gun control legislation after the Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park shootings.
Rick Travis, the legislative director for the California Rifle and Pistol Association, a gun rights lobbying group, told ABC7 that he believed the assault weapons ban case would make its way to the Supreme Court, predicting, “I think most of these laws with firearms in California, in this space, that's where they're going to be going."
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Image via Unsplash/Bexar Arms.