The 34-year-old California assault weapons ban was ruled unconstitutional in a Thursday decision by a federal judge, but state Attorney General Rob Bonta insists the ban remains in place while he puts together an appeal.
A George W. Bush appointee, US District Judge Roger T. Benitez has a thing for shooting down California gun control laws. He struck down California’s assault weapons ban in 2021, though a Ninth Circuit appeal temporarily reinstated it. Just last month, Benitez ruled that California cannot ban detachable magazines that carry more than 10 rounds. And on Thursday, he was back on the assault weapons ban, as CNN reports Benitez struck down the California assault weapons ban again.
“The State of California posits that its ‘assault weapon’ ban, the law challenged here, promotes an important public interest of disarming some mass shooters even though it makes criminals of law-abiding residents who insist on acquiring these firearms for self-defense,” Benitez wrote in his decision, according to the Associated Press. “Nevertheless, more than that is required to uphold a ban.”
“California’s answer to the criminal misuse of a few is to disarm its many good residents. That knee-jerk reaction is constitutionally untenable, just as it was 250 years ago,” he added, per CNN.
The California assault weapons ban prohibits the sale, transfer, and ownership of firearms considered to be assault weapons (with some exceptions for certain owners), including semi-automatic rifles with features like detachable magazines and pistol grips.
But state Attorney General Rob Bonta has already vowed an appeal to (again) the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He put out a statement saying the assault weapons restrictions currently “remain in effect.”
“Weapons of war have no place on California’s streets,” Bonta said in his statement. “This has been state law in California for decades, and we will continue to fight for our authority to keep our citizens safe from firearms that cause mass casualties. In the meantime, assault weapons remain unlawful for purchase, transfer, or possession in California.”
“Once again, this district court issued a dangerous and misguided decision and I will work vigorously to reverse it on appeal,” he added.
Bonta’s claim that the ban remains in effect may depend on whether he’s granted a stay while his appeal is litigated. Bonta also appealed Benitez’s 2021 ruling, but after a separate Supreme Court decision changed how courts consider gun restrictions, the Ninth Circuit vacated the Benitez decision. That set up Thursday’s repeat ruling, which set up a repeat appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
And it’s definitely in the realm of possibility that this case will go all the way to the Supreme Court.
California’s assault weapons ban was originally passed in 1989, and was actually signed into law by a Republican governor named George Deukmejian. It has been altered and modified many times since, and even led to a federal assault weapons ban, which lapsed in 2004.
Image: Weapons and military equipment for army, Assault rifle gun (M4A1) and pistol on camouflage background. (Getty Images)