Federal Judge Again Strikes Down California Ban On Assault Weapons

Ruling Deals Blow To Three-Decade Effort Against Rapid-Fire Guns

San Diego, CA — In a repeat rebuke to California firearms restrictions, a federal judge Thursday overturned the state’s longstanding prohibition on assault weapon sales, arguing it unconstitutionally deprives law-abiding owners the right to bear potent arms.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez acknowledged military-style semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 enable horrific mass shootings when abused by criminals. But in his view, statistics matter less than citizens’ Second Amendment prerogative to wield rapid-fire guns for self-defense if they choose.

“The State of California posits that its ‘assault weapon’ ban promotes an important public interest of disarming some mass shooters even though it makes criminals of law-abiding residents who insist on acquiring these firearms for self-defense,” wrote Judge Benitez. “Nevertheless, more than that is required to uphold a ban.”

The decision closely mirrors a 2021 ruling by Benitez similarly blocking enforcement of the three-decade prohibition against guns with features like folding stocks and pistol grips. His opinions have consistently thwarted California from tightly restricting owner access to firearms, including detachable high-capacity magazines.

Benitez again fired back against the argument that semiautomatic functionality makes assault weapons exceptionally deadly so their ownership requires extraordinary regulation. He contends millions use them lawfully, making a blanket ban unjustified.

Attorney General Rob Bonta vowed to appeal, as the state did unsuccessfully last year before the Supreme Court raised the bar for judging gun laws. Bonta slammed Judge Benitez for equating assault rifles to 19th century Bowie knives, insisting “weapons of war have no place on California’s streets.”

But attorney John Dillon hailed the decision as properly upholding the Second Amendment against the state’s “unconstitutional ban” on guns groups argue only look menacing. He represents plaintiffs who say prohibiting assault weapons prevents owners from adding features like larger magazines to legal modern sporting rifles nearly identical in function.

The latest ruling keeps California firearms restrictions under siege in federal courts. Gun owners have increasingly turned to lawsuits asserting judge-made bans violate their constitutional rights, while officials argue customizing pistols and rifles into assault-style weapons puts public safety at risk.