For the second time in three years, a federal judge has overturned California's long-standing and ever-expanding prohibition on so-called "assault weapons."

In a 79-page ruling from his San Diego courtroom, Federal District Judge Roger Benitez on Thursday found in favor of James Miller, a plaintiff in a case against California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Miller, joined since 2019 by other would-be gun owners and backed by pro-gun groups such as the Firearms Policy Coalition, California Gun Rights Foundation, and the Second Amendment Foundation, argued their constitutional right to keep and bear arms was being trampled by the state's arbitrary ban. 

Benitez agreed with Miller and the other co-plaintiffs, holding that California’s ban is clearly unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.

"The American tradition is rich and deep in protecting a citizen’s enduring right to keep and bear common arms like rifles, shotguns, and pistols," said Benitez, a 2004 appointment by President George W. Bush. "However, among the American tradition of firearm ownership, there is nothing like California’s prohibition on rifles, shotguns, and handguns based on their looks or attributes. Here, the ‘assault weapon’ prohibition has no historical pedigree, and it is extreme."

Benitez, who issued a similar ruling in 2021 in the case only to have it stayed by the left-leaning U.S. 9th Circuit and then eventually returned to his desk, included a stay in this week's opinion. 

 

 

Unsurprisingly, the California Attorney General's office immediately filed for an appeal with the 9th Circuit in the Miller case on Thursday with AG Bonta saying, "Weapons of war have no place on California’s streets. 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."

For his part, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a "tough on guns" San Francisco progressive Democrat who just signed 23 new anti-2A laws into effect, called the ruling "radical," going on to say that "Judge Benitez is hellbent on making it more dangerous for our kids to go to school, for families to go to the mall, or to attend a place of worship."

Meanwhile, Second Amendment advocates see the writing on the wall for the state's ban. 

"We’ve known all along the state ban could not hold up under constitutional scrutiny," said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb in an email to Guns.com, "and we were encouraged by last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Bruen case, which rejected the notion of ‘interest balancing’ when it comes to Second Amendment challenges. Judge Benitez came down on the side of the Constitution and history."

Banner image: A non-California-compliant (for now) Zastava Arms M77 in the Guns.com Vault. 

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