A federal judge has struck down California’s ban on assault weapons, saying it violates the Second Amendment rights of the state’s law-abiding citizens.
Judge Roger Benitez compared the AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army knife in his ruling Friday, citing Supreme Court precedent that protects Second Amendment rights.
“Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” Benitez said in his ruling.
“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,” he added, citing Supreme Court cases the District of Columbia vs. Heller and the United States vs. 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.”
Benitez acknowledged that the Supreme Court cautioned in Heller that the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to keep and carry “any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” But he referred to “assault weapons” as “fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles.”
The AR-15 has been involved in 11 mass shootings, according to a USA Today Fact Check. These include a shooting at Boulder, Colo., grocery in March that killed 10 people, a December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six educators, and a July 2012 Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting that killed 12 people.
In 2019, Benitez also struck down a pending California law that banned high-capacity machine guns.
California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta plans to appeal the latest ruling.
“Today’s decision is fundamentally flawed, and we will be appealing it,” Bonta said in a statement. “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. 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.
“The decision is stayed for 30 days, and the California laws that are subject of the ruling currently remain in full force and effect,” Bonta added.