California appeals judge’s decision to overturn assault weapons ban

Rob Bonta

By JOSH FREIDMAN

The state of California announced Thursday it is appealing a judge’s decision to overturn the state’s more than 30-year-old assault weapons ban.

In 1989, California prohibited the sale of weapons that have “such a high rate of fire and capacity for firepower that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to kill and injure human beings.” The law classified specific brands and models of semi-automatic firearms as assault weapons and banned the ownership and transfer of those guns. 

Last week, a federal judged overturned California’s assault weapons ban, ruling the law violates the Second Amendment. U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of the Southern District of California compared the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife in his ruling. The judge found that most people use military-style rifles legally.

Benitez stayed his ruling for 30 days to allow California Attorney General Rob Bonta time to appeal and seek a stay from the Court of Appeals. The state announced Thursday that Bonta has filed the appeal and will seek to extend the 30-day stay so that the assault weapons ban remains in effect throughout the appellate process. 

“Equating firearms that have been used in many of the deadliest mass shootings in this country with Swiss Army knives has no basis in law or fact,” Bonta said in a statement. “The ban on assault weapons will not put an end to all gun violence, but it is one important tool the state has to protect the safety of Californians while also respecting the rights of law-abiding residents who choose to possess firearms. We have appealed the district court’s ruling and will continue our defense of the state’s commonsense gun laws.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom also voiced his support for continuing the ban.

Gov.Gavin Newsom

“California’s assault weapons ban has saved lives, and we refuse to let these weapons of war back onto our streets,” Newsom said. “This ban was enacted after a shooting that took the lives of five schoolchildren and injured countless more, and my administration will do whatever it takes to continue protecting Californians and leading the nation in gun safety laws. This is a fight California will never back down from, period.”

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