U.S. Judge rules California's ban on assault weapons is unconstitutional

A federal judge has overturned California’s long-standing ban on assault weapons.

The ruling came down Friday, ironically on Gun Violence Awareness Day, but won’t take effect immediately.

The law, passed in California in 1989, restricts weapons with capabilities like the AR-15.

Federal Judge Roger Benitez, a Bush Appointee, argued the restriction is a violation of the second amendment.

The VP of a Bay Area outdoor-recreation business says he agrees with the judge, saying the AR-15 is similar to other semi-automatic rifles used for recreation, and named after the company that created it.

"Everybody says AR stands for assault rifle. No, it does not. It stands for ArmaLite Rifle," said Tony Morgan, VP Guns Fishing & Other Stuff

In his 94-page ruling calling the California assault rifle ban unconstitutional, Judge Benetiz said more Californias were killed by knives than by rifles in 2019, and wrote: "Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment… yet the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR-15."

In response, California Attorney General, Rob Bonta, countered, saying in part: "Today’s decision is fundamentally flawed, and we will be appealing it. There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with Swiss Army knives..."

In fact, you can still buy a modified rifle strikingly similar to the AR-15 in California, with slightly less capability, yet some gun advocates say the laws are still too strict.

"I feel in other parts of the nation they’re able to have more freedom with their guns and I think we have to honor the constitution and we should definitely reflect that," said gun enthusiast Liana Estillore.

Saturday morning, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office tweeted a picture of confiscated weapons saying it’s recovering guns at an alarming rate.

A spokesperson says the office hasn’t yet digested the ruling lifting the assault weapons ban, but in referencing it, said in a statement: "Some of those weapons will inevitably fall into the wrong hands, so it is likely to make an already bad situation more concerning."

Kris Brown, President of the Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence, says it’s likely the judge's ruling will be reversed.

"It cannot stand.  I think the ninth circuit will overrule this.  We will have to watch what happens in the Supreme Court," said Brown.  "But I think every Californian should be focused on this and vote, pay attention to this.  Understand where people are, candidates on this issue.  Your life, our lives as Americans depend on it."      

Judge Benitez issued a 30-day stay on his ruling, giving the state attorney general time to file an appeal, which he has already vowed to do.