By Ankita Joshi and Karisa Cortez
CALIFORNIA – The assault weapon ban in California will still be in force, according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling announced Monday in Miller v. Bonta.
On June 5, Judge Roger Benitez of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California moved to strike down the assault weapon ban that was put in place by the Roberti – Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (AWCA).
AWCA was implemented as a response to the 1989 Cleveland Elementary School Shooting in Stockton, and bans the ownership and possession of 50 specific brands and models of semi-automatic firearms, which are considered to be “assault weapons.”
Since passing, AWCA has influenced bans in six other states, and the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004.
Miller v. Bonta originated when James Miller, member of the San Diego County Gun Owners, sued the Attorney General and the California Bureau of Firearms, on the grounds that AWCA impeded on the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Miller gained support from multiple political action committees and residents alike.
During trial, the Attorney General’s Office contended that the assault weapons ban was necessary, as assault weapons are involved in most crimes and mass shootings and are much more lethal.
However, in his ruling, Judge Benitez stated, “Modern rifles are popular. Modern rifles are legal to build, buy, and own under federal law and the laws of 45 states,” and that “the Second Amendment protects modern weapons.”
Additionally, Judge Benitez compares the AR-15 with a Swiss army knife stating that “… the state of California makes it a crime to have an AR-15 type rifle” while owning a Swiss army knife is acceptable.
He cited statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that show killing by a knife attack is more common than “any kind of rifle.”
Judge Benitez furthered his rationalization by making the claim that California’s ban on assault weapons has had no effect on shootings in the state, that the ban was a “failed experiment” and that “more people have died from the COVID-19 vaccine than mass shootings in California.”
Many state officials and organizations came forward with strong opposition to Judge Benitez’s ruling, and found the ruling “insulting” because it occurred on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, shortly after a mass shooting in San Jose.
One of the opponents of the ruling is California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who stated that “California’s assault weapon ban has saved lives, and we refuse to let these weapons of war back onto our streets.”
California Attorney General Robert Bonta also issued a statement adding, “Equating firearms that have been used in many of the deadliest mass shootings in this country with Swiss Army knives has no basis in law or fact.”
On the other hand, many gun rights groups including the National Rifle Association have shown their support for the ruling.
Another case with similar grounds, Rupp v. Bonta, has also been appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals from the US District Court for the Central District of California.
Originally Rupp v. Becerra, the plaintiffs Steven Rupp and the California Rifle and Pistol Association argued that the AWCA did not protect the Second Amendment Rights of Californians.
While Judge Benitez’s ruling calls for dramatic change, no immediate change can occur, as a 30-day stay was included, allowing the state time to appeal the ruling.
On June 10, 2021, the Attorney General and the California Bureau of Firearms submitted that appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and requested for the stay to continue for the entirety of the appeal process.
The June 21 ruling keeps in place the assault weapons ban as appellate proceedings continue, and has halted Judge Benitez’s June 5 ruling from being implemented.
The appellate proceedings are estimated to have a year-long timeline, if there are no delays.
Ankita Joshi is a second-year student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing a major in International Studies and a minor in Political Science. She is originally from Sacramento, CA.
Karisa Cortez is an incoming fourth year Politics major with minors in History and Media Studies at the University of San Francisco. She is from San Jose, CA, and is currently living in San Francisco.
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