A federal judge Friday overturned California's three-decade-old ban on assault weapons, ruling that it violates the constitutional right to bear arms. US District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego ruled that the state's definition of illegal military-style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons commonly allowed in most other states and by the US Supreme Court, per the AP. "Under no level of heightened scrutiny can the law survive," Benitez said. He issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law but stayed it for 30 days to give state Attorney General Rob Bonta time to appeal. In a statement, Gov. Gavin Newsom called the decision "a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period." California first restricted assault weapons in 1989, with multiple updates to the law since then. Similar assault weapon restrictions have previously been upheld by six other federal district and appeals courts, the state argued.
In a preliminary ruling last fall, Benitez said the state's complicated legal definition of assault weapons can ensnare otherwise law-abiding gun owners with criminal penalties that can strip them of their Second Amendment right to own firearms. The state argued the weapons can still be used—just not with modifications that turn them into assault weapons. Further, a surge in sales of more than 1.16 million other types of pistols, rifles, and shotguns in the last year show the assault weapons ban hasn't kept law-abiding citizens "from acquiring a range of firearms for lawful purposes, including self-defense," the state said in a March court filing. In his ruling, the judge said modern weapons were overwhelmingly used for legal reasons: "Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment." That comparison "is a slap in the face to the families who've lost loved ones to this weapon," Newsom said.
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