Federal District Court Judge Roger Benitez is the best friend California gun owners have in the judicial system. He’s the judge who has ruled against the state’s magazine capacity limit law, touching off freedom week and airlifts of standard capacity magazines into the state. He’s also ruled against the state’s ammunition background check law.
Now, Judge Benitez has handed California gun owners an even bigger victory in striking down the state’s “assault weapons” ban. Benitez issued an order this afternoon in the case of Miller v. Bonta, declaring the ban unconstitutional.
Here’s the Firearms Policy Coalition’s press release on the ruling . . .
Today, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) announced that Judge Roger T. Benitez of the Southern District of California has issued an opinion in Miller v. Bonta (previously Miller v. Becerra), holding that California’s tyrannical ban on so-called “assault weapons” is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. The opinion, along with other filings in this case, can be viewed at AssaultWeaponLawsuit.com.
In 2019, FPC developed and filed Miller v. Becerra, a federal Second Amendment challenge to California’s Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA) ban on common semiautomatic arms with certain characteristics, including those with ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. Throughout the lawsuit, FPC argued that the State’s ban prohibits arms that are constitutionally protected, no more lethal than other certain arms that are not banned, and commonly possessed and used for lawful purposes in the vast majority of the United States.
In the opinion, the Court ruled that many categories of firearms California bans as so-called “assault weapons” are protected by the Second Amendment, and that “[t]he Second Amendment stands as a shield from government imposition of that policy.” It went on to order an injunction against “Defendant Attorney General Rob Bonta, and his officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and those persons in active concert or participation with him, and those duly sworn state peace officers and federal law enforcement officers who gain knowledge of this injunction order or know of the existence of this injunction order,” preventing them “from implementing or enforcing” the following:
- California Penal Code §§ 30515(a)(1) through (8) (defining an “assault weapon” by prohibited features);
- § 30800 (deeming those “assault weapons” a public nuisance);
- § 30915 (regulating those “assault weapons” obtained by bequest or inheritance);
- § 30925 (restricting importation of those “assault weapons” by new residents);
- § 30945 (restricting use of those registered “assault weapons”) ;
- §30950 (prohibiting possession of those “assault weapons” by minors); and,
- the penalty provisions §§ 30600, 30605 and 30800 as applied to “assault weapons” defined in Code §§ 30515(a)(1) through (8).
“In his order today, Judge Benitez held what millions of Americans already know to be true: Bans on so-called ‘assault weapons’ are unconstitutional and cannot stand,” said FPC President Brandon Combs. “This historic victory for individual liberty is just the beginning, and FPC will continue to aggressively challenge these laws throughout the United States. We look forward to continuing this challenge at the Ninth Circuit and, should it be necessary, the Supreme Court.”
“We are delighted with Judge Benitez’s careful consideration of the law and facts in this case,” commented Adam Kraut, FPC’s Senior Director of Legal Operations. “The State’s ban on these common semi-automatic firearms with common characteristics flies in the face of the Constitution, Supreme Court precedent, and the natural right to keep and bear arms.”
“At trial, we presented dispositive evidence that the term ‘assault weapon’ has always been an arbitrary label used by anti-gun governments to ban constitutionally protected firearms,” explained FPC attorney George Lee. “In the end, the State’s rationale for banning these firearms simply could not hold up. This win is a watershed moment for civil rights, and will restore liberty to countless Californians that have been subjected to gross tyranny for years.”
“While this victory is most certainly a valuable one, it’s also important to understand how impactful this decision will be in restoring Second Amendment rights not only in California, but across the entire country,” noted FPC Attorney John Dillon. “This landmark trial win points the way to victory everywhere these unconstitutional bans exist.”
“We are pleased that the district court engaged in the detailed and thoughtful analysis required when a fundamental constitutional right is at stake,” explained FPC appellate counsel Erik Jaffe. “Unlike some appellate decisions in this area, Judge Benitez held the government to its burdens of proof, recognized the high hurdles the government must overcome when burdening the right to keep and bear arms, and gave the Second Amendment the weight and respect it deserves. Such a standard was rightfully unable to be met by such a broad and oppressive law, leading to a huge victory for the People, their right to keep and bear arms, and FPC. We now must urge the Court of Appeals to give the same respect to that express constitutional right, rather than engage in the ad hoc balancing and functionally zero weighting of a fundamental right that is too often the norm in Second Amendment cases.”
Individuals who want to support the Miller v. Bonta case can become a member of the FPC Grassroots Army for just $25 at JoinFPC.org.
Firearms Policy Coalition and its FPC Law team are the nation’s next-generation advocates leading the Second Amendment litigation and research space. Some FPC legal actions include:
- A brief supporting certiorari in NYSRPA v. Bruen, which was granted by the U.S. Supreme Court
- A challenge to Illinois’ ban on handgun carry by adults under 21 (Meyer v. Raoul)
- A challenge to Georgia’s ban on handgun carry by adults under 21 (Baughcum v. Jackson)
- A challenge to Tennessee’s ban on handgun carry by adults under 21 (Basset v. Slatery)
- A challenge to Maryland’s ban on handgun carry (Call v. Jones)
- A challenge to New Jersey’s ban on handgun carry (Bennett v. Davis)
- A challenge to New York City’s ban on handgun carry (Greco v. New York City)
- A challenge to Pennsylvania’s ban on handgun carry by adults under 21 (Lara v. Evanchick)
- A challenge to the federal ban on the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition to adults under 21 years of age (Reese v. ATF)
- A challenge to Maryland’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” (Bianchi v. Frosh)
- Challenge to California’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” (Miller v. Calif. Att’y General)
- A challenge to California’s handgun “roster”, microstamping, and self-manufacturing ban laws (Renna v. Bonta)
- A challenge to Pennsylvania’s laws completely denying the right to carry to individuals who were previously granted relief from prior non-violent convictions and are not currently prohibited from possessing firearms (Suarez v. Evanchick)
The state will, of course, appeal this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Here’s Judge Benitez’s order . . .