A federal judge has overturned California’s assault weapons ban, a law that has been in place for more than three decades. Governor Gavin Newsome, a Democrat, has said he will appeal, calling the judge’s decision a “direct threat to public safety and innocent Californians.”
U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez wrote in an order filed on Friday that the state’s ban on assault weapons is “unconstitutional.” The decision is the result of a lawsuit filed by gun advocacy groups who are trying to change the state’s strict gun laws.
“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,” Benitez wrote.
Benitez’s decision also includes statements that feel like they come straight from a gun manufacturer’s advertisements or an NRA pamphlet. “Like the Swiss army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” he wrote. “Good for both home and battle.”
Of course, AR-15 rifles are also frequently used in mass killings across the country, including California, where in 2019 a man armed with an AK-47, one of the weapons banned by the law, killed three people, including a six-year-old child, and wounded 17 others before he died by suicide.
Newsom said in response that Benitez’s odd Swiss Army Knife comparison “completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who’ve lost loved ones to this weapon.”
“We’re not backing down from this fight, and we’ll continue pushing for common sense gun laws that will save lives,” he added.
A George W. Bush appointee, Benitez also issued a ruling in 2017 against California’s laws prohibiting magazines that carry more than 10 bullets. And in 2020, he ruled against a law mandating background check law for people buying ammunition.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland mass shooting, appeared on CNN to decry the ruling, saying, “My daughter’s in a cemetery… because a Swiss Army knife was not used. Because it was an AR-15.”
A federal judge, who compared an AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife, overturned California's ban on assault weapons.
“My daughter's in a cemetery…because a Swiss Army knife was not used. Because it was an AR-15,” says Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland shooting. pic.twitter.com/RLle31e7Jy
— CNN (@CNN) June 5, 2021