By Kanishka Singh
June 5 (Reuters) – US federal judge on Friday overturned California’s 32-year ban on assault weapons, calling it a “failed experiment” and drawing scathing criticism from governor and prosecutor general of the state.
California has banned the sale of assault weapons since 1989. The ban was challenged in a 2019 lawsuit against the California Attorney General by plaintiffs including James Miller, a resident of the state, and owners of San Diego County Firearms Political Action Committee.
“This case is about what should be a tough constitutional right and whether a state can impose a gun policy choice that infringes on that right with a failed 30-year-old experience,” Judge Roger Benitez of the US District Court of the southern district. of California wrote in the court order filed late Friday.
“The government is not free to impose its own new political choices on American citizens with respect to constitutional rights,” the order added.
“These laws are said to unconstitutionally infringe the Second Amendment rights of California citizens,” the court record concluded. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees citizens the right to bear arms.
The federal judge said he had granted a 30-day stay of the decision at the request of California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a ruling that would allow Bonta to appeal.
âToday’s decision is fundamentally flawed and we will appeal,â Bonta said in a statement.
Seven states, including California, and the District of Columbia have enacted laws banning assault weapons, according to the Giffords Law Center, a gun control group.
Gun control is a politically controversial subject in the United States, which has seen a significant number of deadly mass shootings in schools and other public places for decades.
California Governor Gavin Newsom described Friday’s rescinding of the assault weapons ban as a direct threat to public safety and called it a “disgusting slap” to those who have lost loved ones to cause of gun violence.
“The fact that this judge compared the AR-15 – a weapon of war used on the battlefield – to a Swiss army knife completely undermines the credibility of this decision,” the governor said in a statement.
“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of national defense weapon and national defense equipment,” the judge said in the order filed Friday.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Clelia Oziel)