BELLEVUE, WA – The Second Amendment Foundation is celebrating a victory in California as a U.S. District Court judge has declared the state’s decades-old ban on so-called “assault weapons” to be unconstitutional.
Federal Judge Roger T. Benitez’ ruling will almost certainly be appealed to the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, but for the moment, SAF and its partners in the lawsuit known as Miller v. Bonta are celebrating a victory. SAF is joined in the case by the San Diego County Gun Owners Political Action Committee, California Gun Rights Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition and four private citizens, including James Miller, for whom the case is named. They are represented by attorneys George M. Lee at Seiler Epstein, LLP and John W. Dillon at the Dillon Law Group, APC.
In his 79-page decision, Judge Benitez writes, “Falling back on an old, recycled justification, the State says that its ban should stand because a person can have as many other rifles, shotguns, and pistols as one wants…Heller demolished that argument. The same argument – that a handgun ban might be justified because government- approved alternatives are available – was rejected in Heller and it is rejected here. Heller said quite clearly that it is no constitutional answer for government to say that it is permissible to ban some guns so long as other guns are allowed. This is not the way American Constitutional rights work. It is not permissible for a state to ban some books simply because there are other books to read, or to close synagogues because churches and mosques are open. In their normal configurations, the so-called “assault weapons” banned in California are modern firearms commonly-owned by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes across the nation. Under Heller, McDonald, Caetano, and Bruen, they may not be banned.”
“We’ve known all along the state ban could not hold up under constitutional scrutiny,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb, “and we were encouraged by last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Bruen case, which rejected the notion of ‘interest balancing’ when it comes to Second Amendment challenges. Judge Benitez came down on the side of the Constitution and history.”
“Judge Benitez has once again affirmed what we have argued since the beginning of this case,” SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut stated. “California’s ban on so-called ‘assault weapons’ is, and always has been, unconstitutional. Despite the Supreme Court’s clear directive as to how these challenges are to be examined, the State of California did everything conceivable in an attempt to interject interest-balancing into the analysis. The Court, as required, ignored these attempts and correctly concluded that based on the text of the Second Amendment, as informed by this nation’s history and tradition, such arms are constitutionally protected. We are pleased with the Court’s decision and are proud to have vindicated the rights of millions of Californians.”