Judge Strikes Down CA ‘Assault Rifle’ Ban

A district judge rules that the Golden State’s 32-year-old ban is an unconstitutional infringement on the Second Amendment.

Federal Judge Roger Benitez in the Southern District of California ruled last Friday that the state’s “assault weapons” ban was unconstitutional. He didn’t stop there. Benitez blasted the false and hyperbolic terminology of “assault weapon” that has been popularly and erroneously applied to commonly owned firearms like the AR-15. “This case is not about extraordinary weapons lying at the outer limits of Second Amendment protections,” Benitez wrote. “The banned ‘assault weapons’ are not bazookas, howitzers, or machine-guns. 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 averages purposes.”

Benitez also criticized the role the mainstream media has played in furthering this false “assault weapons” narrative. “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,” he said.

He then essentially gave a lesson about tools used in crime. “The facts, however, do not support this hyperbole, and facts matter,” he wrote. “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. 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.”

Benitez’s ruling came as a result of the Firearms Policy Coalitions 2019 lawsuit raised against California’s 32-year-old Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA).

FPC President Brandon Combs celebrated the ruling, stating, “Judge Benitez held what millions of Americans already know to be true: Bans on so-called ‘assault weapons’ are unconstitutional and cannot stand. This historic victory for individual liberty is just the beginning, and FPC will continue to aggressively challenge these laws throughout the United States. We look forward to continuing this challenge at the Ninth Circuit and, should it be necessary, the Supreme Court.”

Benitez also took the state government to task for its failure to protect its residents’ constitutional rights, arguing: “You might not know it, but this case is about what should be a muscular constitutional right and whether a state can force a gun policy choice that impinges on that right with a 30-year-old failed experiment. It should be an easy question and answer. Government is not free to impose its own new policy choices on American citizens where Constitutional rights are concerned. … The Second Amendment stands as a shield from government imposition of that policy. There is only one policy enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Guns and ammunition in the hands of criminals, tyrants and terrorists are dangerous; guns in the hands of law-abiding responsible citizens are better. To give full life to the core right of self-defense, every law-abiding responsible individual citizen has a constitutionally protected right to keep and bear firearms commonly owned and kept for lawful purposes.”

Well, said, Judge.

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