Federal Court Reinstates Assault Weapons Ban

A federal appeals court has reinstated California’s assault weapons ban despite a recent ruling that rendered it unconstitutional. US District Judge Roger Benitez threw out the ban on October 19, saying it breached the Second Amendment, but the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has since over-ruled Benitez in a sensational victory for gun control advocates.

The new ruling came in response to Attorney General Rob Bonta’s appeal against Judge Benitez’s decision. Bonta said that order was “dangerous and misguided,” declaring that “weapons of war do not belong on our streets.”

The manufacture, sale, or possession of “assault weapons” are banned in California under legislation passed in 1989. The state defines “assault weapons” as a firearm with such a high rate of power “that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed” by the danger it poses to human beings.

Judge Benitez, in his ruling, said semi-automatic weapons are lawfully owned across the nation, and “these prohibited rifles are virtually the same as other lawfully possessed rifles.” The Judge initially ruled California’s legislation unconstitutional back in 2021, but the appeals court ordered a reconsideration. At the time, Governor Gavin Newsom described Benitez’s words as a “slap in the face” to the victims of gun violence.

In September, Governor Newsom signed legislation imposing stiff taxes on purchases, placing new restrictions on where people may carry weapons, and raising the eligible ownership age to 21. “While radical judges continue to strip away our ability to keep people safe, California will keep fighting,” Newsom said.

The Firearms Policy Coalition immediately filed a federal lawsuit insisting Newsom had gone too far and the restrictions on where a gun owner may carry a weapon contradicted the Supreme Court decision in New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. The Bruen ruling struck down New York’s law restricting concealed carry rights and was celebrated by gun advocates who viewed it as a reinforcement of the Second Amendment.