A federal appeals court on Monday placed a hold on U.S. District Judge Robert Benitez's ruling that California's 30-year ban on assault weapons was unconstitutional, potentially setting up a fight in the U.S. Supreme Court over the issue.
In early June, Benitez had ruled that California's ban was uncostitutional, comparing the weapons to a "Swiss Army Knife."
Soon after the court's ruling, California Democrat Attorney General Rob Bonta announced he had filed an appeal to Benitez's decision, The Hill reported.
After the decision was issued, Bonta tweeted, "This leaves our assault weapons laws in effect while appellate proceedings continue. We won't stop defending these life saving laws."
Bonta also called Benitez's decision "disturbing and troubling and of great concern," according to The Hill. California officials have argued in their appeal that five federal appeals courts had rejected constitutional challenges to ban assault weapons.
According to The Los Angeles Times, a panel of 9th Circuit Judges consiting of Barry G. Silverman, Jacqueline Nguyen, and and Ryan D. Nelson decided to place a hold on Benitez's ruling.
The Times also reported that California is one of seven states and the District of Columbia to ban assault weapons. This case is expected to reach the Supreme Court which has a conservative supermajority.
In his ruling, Benitez wrote, "This case is not about extraordinary weapons lying at the outer limits of Second Amendment protection. The banned 'assault weapons' are not bazookas, howitzers, or machine guns. Those aims are dangerous and solely used for military purposes. Instead, the firearms deemed 'assault weapons' are fairly ordinary, popular modern rifles. This is an average case about average guns used in average ways for average purposes."
The Firearms Policy Coalition challenged the assault weapons ban and criticized the 9th Circuit for putting Benitez's decision on hold and "choosing government tyranny over human lives and rights," The Coalition said, "Tens of millions of Californians have suffered under the state's unconstitutional and oppressive gun control scheme for far too long," reported the Times.
California banned assault weapons in 1989 in response to a mass shooting that same year at a school in Stockton. The shooter used an AK-47 and large capacity magazines to kill five children. California's law restricts the manufacture, importation, sale, and possession of rifles, pistols, and shotguns defined as 'assault weapons' under the state’s penal code, according to the Times.
Fox5 reported that in a news conference in San Francisco where Bonta announced the appeal, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a strong condemnation of Benitez and his past of history of striking down California gun laws. He called the judge "a wholly owned subsidiary of the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association," He also criticized the timing of the ruling which occurred on National Gun Violence Day.
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