In California, a three-decades-old “assault weapons” ban was struck down by a judge who called it a “failed experiment.” Governor Gavin Newsom, who is facing a tumultuous recall effort, has lashed out against the ruling, whose effects are currently under a 30-day stay.
“The judge, Roger T. Benitez of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, wrote that sections of the state’s penal code that defined assault weapons and restricted their use were ‘hereby declared unconstitutional and shall be enjoined’,” the New York Times reported.
“But the judge said he had granted a 30-day stay of the ruling at the request of Attorney General Rob Bonta, a move that would allow Mr. Bonta to appeal it,” the Times’ report continued. California had prohibited the sale of “assault weapons” in 1989, the report noted.
In a statement, Gov. Newsom called the ruling “a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians.” Newsom objected to the ruling putting in plain language what the Second Amendment means and how it applies to the citizens’ right to armed self-defense.
The judge’s ruling itself contains stark language that is likely to “trigger” progressives like the California governor.
“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” the case decision Miller, et al. v. Bonta read. “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 AR15 type rifle. Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.”
The judge further unloaded on the facts of the case, which are often distorted by media hyperbole and radical left-wing activists.
“This case is not about extraordinary weapons lying at the outer limits of Second Amendment protection,” the judge continued. “The banned ‘assault weapons’ are not bazookas, howitzers, or machineguns. Those arms are dangerous and solely useful for military purposes. Instead, the firearms deemed ‘assault weapons’ are fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles. This is an average case about average guns used in average ways for average purposes.”
“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 judge scolded. “The facts, however, do not support this hyperbole, and facts matter. Federal Bureau of Investigation murder statistics do not track assault rifles, but they do show that killing by knife attack is far more common than murder by any kind of rifle,” Judge Benitez said. “In California, murder by knife occurs seven times more often than murder by rifle. For example, according to F.B.I. statistics for 2019, California saw 252 people murdered with a knife, while 34 people were killed with some type of rifle not necessarily an AR-15. A Californian is three times more likely to be murdered by an attacker’s bare hands, fists, or feet, than by his rifle. In 2018, the statistics were even more lopsided as California saw only 24 murders by some type of rifle. The same pattern can be observed across the nation.”
Judge Benitez then set out to put the record straight about what the news media calls “assault weapons.”
“As an aside, the ‘assault weapon’ epithet is a bit of a misnomer,” he wrote. “These prohibited guns, like all guns, are dangerous weapons. However, these prohibited guns, like all guns, can be used for ill or for good. They could just as well be called ‘home defense rifles’ or ‘anti-crime guns’.”
The judge subsequently put California’s ‘assault weapons’ ban under the Heller test.
“As applied to AWCA, the Heller test asks: is a modern rifle commonly owned by law-abiding citizens for a lawful purpose?” he asked. “For the AR-15 type rifle the answer is ‘yes.’ The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and keep the popular AR-15 rifle and its many variants do so for lawful purposes, including selfdefense at home.”
“Under Heller, that is all that is needed,” the judge ruled. “Using the easy to understand Heller test, it is obvious that the California assault weapon ban is unconstitutional. Under the Heller test, judicial review can end right here.”
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