On Thursday, a U.S. District Judge in San Diego, Roger Benitez, deemed California’s law prohibiting assault weapons unconstitutional. This decision was influenced by a prior U.S. Supreme Court verdict that broadened gun rights. The challenged law, originating from 1989, had forbidden the use of semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15. However, Benitez expressed that this prohibition went against the Second Amendment’s provision allowing individuals to “keep and bear arms.”
Judge Benitez commented that the law unjustly restricted law-abiding citizens from owning semi-automatic firearms such as the AR-15. While he granted an injunction to halt the law’s enforcement, he also provided a 10-day window for the state to lodge an appeal. California’s Attorney General, Rob Bonta, expressed his disagreement with the judge’s ruling and confirmed his intention to appeal. Bonta emphasized that such powerful firearms shouldn’t be accessible on California’s streets.
The backdrop to this decision is a previous ruling by the Supreme Court, which disallowed New York’s regulations on concealed handgun carrying. This pivotal case introduced a benchmark for evaluating firearm laws, asserting that they should align with the nation’s historical precedents related to firearm regulation. Benitez stated that California’s ban on assault weapons didn’t have historical parallels, especially considering the state’s inability to showcase earlier laws restricting technologically advanced rifles.
In 1989, prompted by a tragic school shooting, California became the inaugural U.S. state to implement an assault weapons ban. The legal challenge against this ban was spearheaded by Californian citizens desiring AR-15 ownership, backed by gun rights organizations such as the Firearms Policy Coalition and the Second Amendment Foundation.
Judge Benitez, nominated by ex-President George W. Bush, voiced concerns that such bans allowed a minority of criminals to limit the rights and freedoms of the majority. Notably, this wasn’t the first time Benitez labeled the law unconstitutional. He had made a similar judgment in 2021, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals annulled his directive, prompting a re-evaluation post the Supreme Court’s influential decision. Moreover, Benitez recently opposed California’s restriction on magazines capable of holding over 10 rounds, a decision currently under appeal.