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Judge Overturns California’s Assault Weapons Ban

todayJune 9, 2021 1

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US District Judge Roger Benitez deemed the 32-year-old California Assault Weapons Ban unconstitutional in a 94-page decision. The reasoning Benitez applied has come into question by experts.

What We Know:

  • Benitez was nominated in 2004 by President Georgia W. Bush. Despite being overwhelmingly opposed by the American Bar Association, the Senate confirmed him on a 98-1 vote. The ruling stems from a 2019 lawsuit filed by James Miller and the San Diego County Gun Owners, who alleged that the 1989 ban violates their Second Amendment rights.
  • In his decision, he likened the AR-15 to a Swiss Army Knife. He also claimed that studies prove that the harm of an assault rifle being used in a mass shooting is “infinitesimally rare.” He further affirmed that more people have died from the COVID-19 vaccine than mass shootings in California. None of these claims were accompanied by evidence.
  • California has had more than a dozen mass shootings this year, and since 2017 more than 50 people have died from mass shootings in the state. The CDC has investigated 4,900 reports of post-vaccine deaths and has been unable to find a causal link.
  • Benitez did cite an emergency room physician’s testimony and wrote that injuries from AR-15’s are no different from other legal firearms. Dr. Heather Sher, a radiologist who treated Parkland shooting victims, stated, “Handgun injuries to the liver are generally survivable […] An Ar-15 bullet wound to the middle of the liver would cause so much bleeding that the patient would likely never make it to the trauma center to receive our care.”
  • He has made other rulings in the gun control debate, such as tossing out the 10 round magazine limit and the use of background checks for ammunition sales. A rule in Southern California has established that cases go to judges with prior experience with the issue, which is how this case ended up with Benitez in the first place.
  • There is potential for this case to come before the Supreme Court, which is now overwhelmingly conservative due to the former administration. It could be used in the battle to overturn regulatory measures and rule that banning military-style weapons is unconstitutional.

The current ban will stay in place until the appeals court hands down the final ruling to the entire state. Benitez has enacted a 30-day stay so Attorney General Rob Bonta can file an appeal. Law Professor Jessica Levinson at Loyola Marymount University stated, “I think it’s incredibly problematic when a federal judge quotes things that are factually incorrect because it hurts the integrity of the branch.”

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todayJune 9, 2021