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9th Circuit Blocks Federal Judge’s Ruling Against California’s ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban

San Francisco, CA – A federal judge’s order overturning California’s “assault weapon” ban was blocked by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.

A panel of three appeals court judges issued a stay on U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez June 4 ruling, which will keep California’s current ban in effect during the pendency of the case, CNN reported.

“This leaves our assault weapons laws in effect while appellate proceedings continue,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on Twitter. “We won’t stop defending these life-saving laws.”

In his ruling on June 4, Benitez said the 32-year-old law was a “failed experiment” that violated law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights, KCRA reported.

“Under no level of heightened scrutiny can the law survive,” he said at the time.

Benitez noted that military-style rifles are allowed in most other states, as well as by the U.S. Supreme Court, and argued California’s ban deprives law-abiding citizens of those same rights.

“Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle,” Benitez wrote in his 94-page ruling, according to KCRA.

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

Benitez said the media has twisted some citizens’ perceptions of reality with regards to military-style rifles.

“This is an average case about average guns used in average ways for average purposes,” he wrote in the ruling, according to KCRA. “One is to be forgiven if one is persuaded by news media and others that the nation is awash with murderous AR-15 assault rifles. The facts, however, do not support this hyperbole, and facts matter.”

“In California, murder by knife occurs seven times more often than murder by rifle,” Benitez added.

The ban has also failed to stop mass shootings or attacks on law enforcement officers – the objectives it was supposedly created to fulfill, he said, calling the ban “a continuing failed experiment.”

The case involves “what should be a muscular constitutional right and whether a state can force a gun policy choice that impinges on that right with a 30-year-old failed experiment,” Benitez wrote, according to The New York Times.

“It should be an easy question and answer,” he continued. “Government is not free to impose its own new policy choices on American citizens where constitutional rights are concerned.”

The judge issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the assault weapon ban, but stayed the order for 30 days to give Bonta an opportunity to appeal the ruling.

Bonta filed the appeal less than one week later, CNN reported.

California Governor Gavin Newsom blasted Benitez’s decision, claiming that allowing law-abiding citizens to possess military-style rifles would present “a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period,” KCRA reported.

Newsom said the judge’s comparison of the firearms and 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.”

The governor said he is “not backing down from this fight,” and vowed to “continue pushing for common-sense gun laws that will save lives,” KCRA reported.

A White House spokesperson issued a statement arguing that courts have repeatedly determined that banning assault weapons does not violate the Second Amendment, according to CNN.

“The President continues to press for commonsense laws to reduce gun violence – including a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” the spokesperson added.

Status updates are due to the court within the next two weeks, CNN reported.

Another ruling issued by Benitez in 2017 is already being appealed by the state.

That one involved him overturning California’s ban on the purchase and sale of firearms magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, KCRA reported.

A three-judge appellate panel upheld Benitez’s ruling last summer.

In March, the 9th U.S. District Court of appeals announced that an 11-member panel will rehear the case, KCRA reported.

The following month, Benitez issued a ruling blocking the enforcement of a 2019 state law requiring anyone wanting to buy ammunition to go through a background check.

The state is also appealing that decision, KCRA reported.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin

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