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Federal judge rules California’s ban on assault weapons is unconstitutional

Federal District Court Judge Roger Benitez ruled on June 4 that California’s Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, which banned all assault weapons in California, violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and unlawfully restricts the kinds of firearms protected under previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings. ​He wrote, “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, 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, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). 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.”

The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 was California’s first assault weapons act. It defined an assault weapon as any firearm specified in Penal Code 12276 and made it illegal for such firearms to be sold, purchased, manufactured, distributed, or imported. The California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the act in Kasler v. Lockyer in 2000.

The current case originated in 2019, when James Miller, a state resident, and the San Diego County Gun Owners, a political action committee, filed a lawsuit against then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D).

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a statement in response to the judge’s ruling, saying, “Today’s decision is a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period.”

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