A San Diego federal judge on Friday overturned California’s three-decade ban on assault weapons, saying it violated the Second Amendment.
“Under no level of scrutiny the law can survive,” US District Judge Roger Benitez said before issuing a permanent injunction that takes effect in 30 days.
Benitez argued that the state’s definition of illegal military-style rifles prohibits firearms licensed in other states, depriving California gun owners of their rights.
He likened the AR-15 rifle to a Swiss army knife, saying it is “a perfect combination of national defense weapon and national defense equipment. Good for home and battle.”
The complaint filed by the San Diego County Gun Owners Political Action Committee, the California Gun Rights Foundation, the Second Amendment Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition is among several gun advocacy groups challenging California gun laws, which are among the strictest in the country.
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“One must be forgiven if one is persuaded by the media and others that the nation is inundated with deadly AR-15 assault rifles,” Benitez said in the ruling, calling the AR-15s “ordinary weapons” by compared to bazookas, howitzers or machine guns which he said should only be used in the military. “The facts, however, cannot stand this hyperbole, and the facts matter.”
He noted that there are currently around 185,569 assault weapons registered with the state despite the ban.
Governor Gavin Newsom condemned the decision, calling it a “direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians.”
He said the Swiss Army knife comparison undermined the “credibility” of the decision and was a “slap in the face to the families who have lost loved ones to this weapon”.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the state will appeal the decision.
California first restricted assault weapons in 1989, with multiple updates to the law since then.
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The state is also appealing Benitez’s 2017 ruling against the state’s ban on the sale and purchase of magazines containing more than 10 bullets and its 2020 ruling blocking a 2019 California law requiring a background check. for anyone who buys ammunition.
Both measures were supported by voters in a 2016 poll.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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