California Dems sound off after judge slams 32-year ban on ‘assault’ weapons as ‘failed experiment’

California Democratic officers are pushing again after a federal judge in San Diego overturned the state’s 32-year ban on “assault” weapons, and in doing so, in contrast the kind of gun to a Swiss Army knife.

In a 94-page ruling issued on Friday, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego argued that the state’s definition of unlawful military-style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons generally allowed in most different states and by the U.S. Supreme Court.

California has among the strictest firearms legal guidelines within the nation, and Benitez argued that the three-decade-old ban on “assault” weapons is a “failed experiment” and deprives residents of their Second Amendment proper to bear arms.

“Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” Benitez wrote within the first paragraph. “Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller and United States v. Miller. Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR-15 type rifle. Therefore, this court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.” 


Gov. Gavin Newsom shortly condemned the ruling, and state Attorney General Rob Bonta promised to attraction. 

“Today’s decision is fundamentally flawed, and we will be appealing it. There is no sound basis in law, fact or common sense for equating assault rifles with Swiss Army knives – especially on Gun Violence Awareness Day and after the recent shootings in our own California communities,” Bonta mentioned in a statement. “We need to take action to end gun violence now. We will fight this ruling and continue to advocate for and defend common sense gun laws that will save lives.”

Newsom mentioned the choice “is a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period.” He argued that “the fact that this judge compared the AR-15 – a weapon of war that’s used on the battlefield – to a Swiss Army knife completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who’ve lost loved ones to this weapon.”

“We’re not backing down from this fight, and we’ll continue pushing for common sense gun laws that will save lives,” the governor added

After a number of mass shootings throughout his first months in workplace, President Biden introduced in April that his administration would take steps to deal with “gun violence as a public health epidemic.” He cited the mass capturing in Boulder, Colorado, that killed 10 and the capturing at a string of Atlanta spas that killed eight. The president referenced the historic spikes in homicides in cities throughout America. 

Another mass capturing occurred in California final month at a San Jose rail yard the place a shooter opened hearth and killed 9 coworkers earlier than turning the gun on himself. Authorities mentioned he was armed with three semiautomatic 9-millimeter handguns and 32 high-capacity magazines loaded with further ammunition, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

AR-15s have been utilized in different lethal mass shootings throughout the nation, together with in 2016 at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub and in 2017 at a Las Vegas live performance.  The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence studies that California is one in every of seven states, plus Washington, D.C., that ban “assault” weapons. 

“I can assure you – if a Swiss Army knife was used at Pulse, we would have had a birthday party for my best friend last week. Not a vigil,” Brandon Wolf, who survived the Pulse nightclub capturing, tweeted in response to the California ruling. 

California’s Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA) was enacted in 1989. 


The ruling states that there have been 25 mass shootings over the previous roughly 40 years in California. Before AWCA, twice in a decade, an “assault” weapon was utilized in a mass capturing, Benitez wrote. On common, since AWCA, twice a decade, an “assault” weapon was utilized in a mass capturing.

“How well has the California ban on assault weapons worked?” he mentioned. “The assault weapon ban has had no effect. California’s experiment is a failure.” 

Benitez, citing FBI statistics, mentioned homicide by knife happens seven occasions extra typically than homicide by rifle. 

In 2019, California noticed 252 individuals murdered with a knife, whereas 34 individuals have been killed with some sort of rifle – not essentially an AR-15. The judge additionally identified {that a} Californian is 3 times extra more likely to be murdered by an attacker’s naked palms, fists or ft, than by his rifle. 

“This case is not about extraordinary weapons lying at the outer limits of Second Amendment protection. The banned ‘assault weapons’ are not bazookas, howitzers or machine guns,” Benitez mentioned in his ruling. “Those arms are dangerous and solely useful for military purposes. Instead, the firearms deemed ‘assault weapons’ are fairly ordinary, popular, modern.”

The judge mentioned regardless of California’s ban, there presently are an estimated 185,569 “assault” weapons registered with the state – grandfathered in earlier than California’s evolving definition of an “assault” weapon.

The ruling is available in a lawsuit filed by the San Diego County Gun Owners Political Action Committee, California Gun Rights Foundation, Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition that’s amongst a number of by gun advocacy teams difficult California’s firearms legal guidelines. 

It was filed on behalf of gun house owners who need to use high-capacity magazines of their authorized rifles or pistols, however mentioned they will’t as a result of doing so would flip them into unlawful “assault” weapons below California legislation. Unlike army weapons, the semi-automatic rifles hearth one bullet every time the set off is pulled, and the plaintiffs say they’re authorized in 41 states.


The lawsuit mentioned California is “one of only a small handful states to ban many of the most popular semiautomatic firearms in the nation because they possess one or more common characteristics, such as pistol grips and threaded barrels,” ceaselessly however not completely together with removable ammunition magazines.

Brandon Combs, the president of the Firearms Policy Coalition, mentioned in an announcement that the ruling “held what millions of Americans already know to be true: Bans on so-called ‘assault weapons’ are unconstitutional and cannot stand.”

Benitez was nominated by former President George W. Bush and serves within the Southern District of California. In 1989, Republican Gov. George Deukmejian made California the primary state to ban the sale of “assault” weapons, although the state legislation has been up to date a number of occasions since then to develop the definition of what’s thought-about an “assault” weapon, the Times reported. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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