Federal District Court Judge Rules that California’s AR-15 Ban is Unconstitutional

On October 19, 2023, United States District Court Judge Roger Benitez issued a ruling declaring that California’s prohibition on AR-15s and other so-called “assault weapons” infringed on the Second Amendment.

Benitez determined that the California state government’s criminal ban on the sale and possession of semi-automatic rifles with certain features could not pass the tradition-based test set forth by the Supreme Court in its most recent landmark Second Amendment decision.

“In the United States, with its long tradition of gun ownership, there are no historical laws prohibiting simple possession of any type of firearm until long after the 1868 adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. That is too late,” Benitez declared in his opinion for Miller v. Bonta. “Notwithstanding having significant time to do so, the State has identified no national tradition of firearm regulation so broad in its coverage or so far reaching in its effect as its extreme ‘assault weapon’ statutes.”

This case is the second instance that Judge Benitez struck down California’s prohibition. He took similar action back in 2021. However,  his ruling was subsequently vacated, and the case remanded to him in 2022 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision. 

Benitez issued his most recent ruling with a 10-day stay upon the request of California Attorney General Rob Bonta. In response, Bonta announced that he intends to appeal Judge Benitez’s decision yet again to the Ninth Circuit.

“Weapons of war have no place on California’s streets,” Bonta declared in a press release. “The Supreme Court was clear that Bruen did not create a regulatory straitjacket for states. Once again, this district court issued a dangerous and misguided decision and I will work vigorously to reverse it on appeal.”

Gun-rights proponents praised the decision and congratulated Judge Benitez for coming down “on the side of the Constitution and history.”

“We’ve known all along the state ban could not hold up under constitutional scrutiny,” Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, proclaimed in a statement. Gottlieb’s organization was one of the plaintiffs involved in the case against the prohibition.

It’s good to see pro-Second Amendment wind take place in California here and there.

Let’s face it, the state is an anti-gun hellscape. According to Guns & Ammo magazine’s best states for gun owners rankings, California is ranked in 48th place. With Democrats completely dominating the state’s politics, it will ultimately come down to federal courts having to intervene in order to simply preserve our foundational freedoms.

That’s the nature of politics in deep blue, which will require pro-gun activists to adjust their strategies accordingly. 

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