Assault Weapons Ban: Appeals Court Blocks Ruling Overturning California Firearms Ban

Salesman Ryan Martinez clears the chamber of an AR-15 at the ‘Ready Gunner’ gun store In Provo, Utah, June 21, 2016. (George Frey/Reuters)

A federal appeals court on Monday blocked a judge’s decision to overturn California’s assault weapons ban, which prevents the manufacture and sale of about 60 models and other features of assault weapons.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of Judge Roger T. Benitez’s June 4 decision deeming semi-automatic firearms as a good that citizens are entitled to possess for domestic use and defense.

Benitez’s move to overturn the ban allowed the state 30 days to challenge the decision. On June 10, Attorney General Rob Bonta filed an appeal which the 9th Circuit agreed to take up. That court granted Bonta’s motion and paused Benitez’s ruling pending decisions in other gun cases that have already been presented before other courts, effectively maintaining the assault weapons prohibition until further notice.

“This leaves our assault weapons laws in effect while appellate proceedings continue,” Bonta tweeted. “We won’t stop defending these life-saving laws.”

The stay will remain in effect until the 9th Circuit rules in another case regarding California’s assault weapons laws. That case is also now contingent on a pending decision in a separate case over California’s outlawing large-capacity magazines.

An 11-judge 9th Circuit “en banc” panel, a bench comprising mostly Democratic appointees, is scheduled to hear arguments in that case Tuesday.

Benitez, a conservative-leaning appointee of former President George W. Bush who has developed a reputation for rulings favoring gun rights, said the assault weapons ban violates the constitutional liberties of law-abiding Californians and “has had no effect” on curbing gun violence wrought by mass shootings.

As one of seven states with an assault weapons ban, California’s case is predicted to advance to the Supreme Court, which now has a conservative-dominated composition, for a final ruling. The high court has many new members that follow originalist jurisprudence and legal interpretation, meaning they adhere to the Constitution’s written word and surrounding context when making rulings.

Arizona, which falls under the 9th Circuit’s jurisdiction, spearheaded a coalition of twenty-two Republican-controlled states to file an amicus brief demanding that the appeals court uphold the order overturning the ban.

“Calling modern rifles ‘assault weapons’ is a misnomer— they are most often used by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes like personal protection or target and sport shooting,” the states wrote in the brief . “There is nothing sinister about citizens keeping or bearing a modern rifle.”

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who is up for a recall election in the fall, announced the state’s appeal to preserve the existing ban, vowing to ensure California will never “let these weapons of war back onto our streets.”

“This is a fight California will never back down from, period,” he remarked. “A lot is on the line,” Newsom said.

The California court development comes after President Joe Biden urged Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines at the federal level as a way to reduce shootings in the country.

Biden’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), David Chipman, who danced around defining an “assault weapon” during his Senate hearing, supports the banning and confiscation of AR-15s. He has declared that he wants to extend the National Firearms Act (NFA) to cover “assault weapons” as it does fully automatic guns.

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