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Federal judge overturns California’s ban on assault weapons and likens AR-15 to Swiss Army knife

A federal judge overturned California’s longtime ban on assault weapons on Friday in a ruling that likened the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife.

Assault weapons have been banned in California since 1989, according to the ruling. The law has been updated several times since it was originally passed.

According to the ruling by US District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego, the assault weapons ban violates the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms and deprives Californians from owning assault-style weapons commonly allowed in other states. Benitez issued a permanent injunction Friday so the law cannot be enforced.

“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” Benitez said in the ruling. “Firearms deemed as ‘assault weapons’ are fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles.”

In his ruling, the judge also criticized the news media, writing, “One is to be forgiven if one is persuaded by news media and others that the nation is awash with murderous AR-15 assault rifles. The facts, however, do not support this hyperbole, and facts matter.”

According to 2019 FBI data, the handgun was the most commonly used weapon in murders and accounted for 6,368 victims in 2019. Knives or cutting instruments accounted for 1,476 murders, rifles accounted for 364 murder victims, and “firearms, type not stated” accounted for 3,281 victims, the data shows.

Still, an AR-15 style rifle has been the weapon of choice for the most violent mass killings in modern history, including in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh; the Route 91 Harvest musical festival in Las Vegas; a massacre at a church in Texas; the Pulse nightclub in Orlando; a high school in Parkland, Florida; and the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Judge Benitez has previously ruled against other state firearm restrictions. Last year, he ruled California’s ban on high-capacity magazines was unconstitutional. He also struck down the state’s restriction on remote purchases of gun ammunition.

California officials pledge to appeal ruling

The comparison of the AR-15 to a versatile pocket knife favored by campers drew sharp criticism from California officials including Gov. Gavin Newsom, who called the AR-15 a “weapon of war.”

The comparison, he said in a statement, “completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who’ve lost loved ones to this weapon.”

Newsom added: “We’re not backing down from this fight, and we’ll continue pushing for common sense gun laws that will save lives.”

The ruling and injunction are stayed for 30 days, during which time the attorney general may appeal and seek a stay from the Court of Appeals.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said he will be appealing the ruling. “Today’s decision is fundamentally flawed, and we will be appealing it,” Bonta said in a news release.

“There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with swiss army knives — especially on Gun Violence Awareness Day and after the recent shootings in our own California communities,” his statement said.

Victims’ families react

Fred Guttenberg, a gun safety activist whose daughter was killed in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, denounced the judge’s comparison.

“My daughter is in a cemetery because a Swiss Army Knife was not used, because it was an AR-15,” he said. “If a Swiss Army Knife were used, my daughter and most of those other kids and adults would be alive today.”

Guttenberg also called Benitez a “liar” and an “activist judge.”

“You are a liar, and your opinion is written utilizing the exact language of the gun lobby. These are not new words. These are not new phrases. They are not new expressions,” he said. “You took the language from the gun lobby to write this opinion.”

Asked for his reaction on Guttenberg’s remarks, Benitez told CNN in an email he is “prohibited from publicly commenting on pending cases.”

Also on Saturday, Richard Martinez, whose son was killed in a 2014 California mass shooting, spoke to CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield and rejected the judge’s conclusion that assault weapons like the AR-15 are “fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles.”

“It’s outrageous,” Martinez told CNN. “It is wrong. Assault weapons were designed by the military to kill people, to kill a lot of people, to kill a lot of people quickly. These type of AR-15-style weapons are modeled after the military versions, and they function pretty much the same way as the weapons used by the military.”

2nd Amendment advocates celebrate

Gun rights advocates quickly celebrated Friday’s ruling.

Calling the existing state law “tyrannical,” the pro-gun Firearms Policy Coalition said it was a first step in “restoring” gun rights across the country.

“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.”

The National Rifle Association called the judge’s decision “well-reasoned and principled” and said it “demonstrates the importance of appointing judges who accurately apply the original meaning of our Constitution.”

“Judge Benitez highlighted what all gun owners know: these types of restrictive gun laws don’t make anyone safer and infringe on the rights of law-abiding Americans. We look forward to the positive impact this ruling will have on current and future Second Amendment cases,” NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said in a statement to CNN.

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Comments

99 Comments

  1. Finally, some common sense. My family uses our AR15 rifles in hunting and target shooting applications. For hunting we use the five round magazine. Target shooting we use 20 and 30 round magazines. The AR15 is a semi-automatic rifle. It is not an assault rifle.

      1. There are far more people killed by knives than AR15’s yet they don’t license and/or ban knives. You can even own bigger knives that are sharper and stronger that have the potential to hurt more people at greater distances… they’re called swords…

      2. Common sense?? Being assaulted is nothing close to being dead. Dead is the outcome when victims are attacked by criminals and are able to defend them selves with a fire arm by eliminating the threat. Of course the creaps and the crooks are going to disagree. They died by making poor choices and the ones that are alive are in jails and prisons

    1. Yes. An AR 15 is no more an “assault” weapon than a toyota prius whose driver deliberately drives up a sidewalk to kill people is an assault car. AR 15s are legal semi automatic firearms no different than a .22. It’s just a higher caliber.

  2. If our founding fathers could have seen how bent and twisted the 2nd is being treated by right wing toolsacks it would be totally different and more clear.

    1. We have the right to keep and bear arms.
      *
      In the days of the founding fathers, this included ships armed with cannons…warships. John Jacob Astor owned warships to protect his enterprises, there is a well know story of one of his privately owned warships being blown up by its crew in the Puget Sound when it was over-ran by unhappy locals.
      *
      I think they would have been more clear that peace and security are ultimately and individual responsibility.

      1. Nowhere does it say you have the right to own a military Assault rifle, literal weapon of war. This fake judge needs to be ********. Remarks by President Biden on Gun Violence Prevention …https://www.whitehouse.gov › 2021/04/08 › remarks-b…
        Apr 8, 2021 — But no amendment — no amendment to the Constitution is absolute. … From the very beginning, you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own. … Let me say it again: Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s … people in Georgia when 10 more lives were taken in a mass murder in Colorado.

        1. It’s not a weapon of war, Francis. It’s a semi-automatic rifle and the most popular sporting rifle in the nation due to its accuracy, versatility, and low recoil.

        2. Wow, you’re really not smart (I threw that in, but based on your politics it’s a well recorded fact).
          The AR is NOT a military weapon, it’s the civilian off-take of the M-16. Many military weapons later became popular with civilians, after some modifications. So did a lot of freeze dried foods that hikers and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy now.

        3. Very, very few people own a “military Assault rifle”! They are covered under The National Firearms Act in 1934. Look it up and learn! Just because it is black and scary looking, doesn’t mean it is an assault rifle. I hope you also realize that it is legal to own a tank, jet fighter, artillery piece, bazooka, or a mortar . . . They are also covered under The National Firearms Act.

        4. Let me say it again. Mental illness is epidemic in the US. Mental illness is the cause of so much violence including gun violence. Deal with the root problem. Not guns. Mental illness.

          1. Moakie Says

            You are correct. And in virtually all of the “mass” killings, the authorities were aware of the individuals and maybe were keeping an eye on them but failed to insure they were entered into the gun background check data base. Two issues that need to be dealt with: 1. mental illness, and 2. individuals of concern are actually entered into the data base.

        5. Careful discussing items you clearly know nothing about. It gives it away to easily. You would be talking about the M-16 not the AR-15 when looking at a Military grade weapon but hey I wouldn’t expect a keyboard warrior to know the difference. You are right that there is a violence epidemic in this country but you may want to look up the stats as way more people are killed using a handgun and even knives than AR-15’s. Those pesky facts…

    2. The founding fathers expressed the desire for citizens to be able to defend themselves against not just individuals, but against a tyrannical government.
      What you call right wing thinking was once the accepted position of both major parties.
      By far the largest jump in ALL gun sales goes to women and minorities, wishing to defend themselves against the huge jump in crime the democrats have fostered.

      1. You can say this with some proof to back it up:By far the largest jump in ALL gun sales goes to women and minorities…

        But you have zero actual proof of the motivations and thinking of those people when they bought the gun.

            1. Yeah an article about sales going up, just like i said you would be able to furnish proof for.
              Nowhere in that piece does it say people are buying guns because of things Democrats have done. the unrest in this country is not the exclusive result of Democrat behavior.
              Or are you one of those deadenders clinging to the idea that 1.6.21 was an antifa/leftist acton?

      2. Wasn’t Democrats who stormed the Capitol on 1/6/21, it was delusional Twumpers who drank too much Kool-Aid. The Cult of Trump is way more of a danger to our country than the Democrats. Wise up, don’t like what Dems want to do? Elect qualified non-Trumpers to office, not ones like MTG. Unless Trumpism dies the GOP will get creamed in the midterms and in 2024.

        1. I’m loving the high prices your liberal god is making possible, and who doesn’t enjoy watching women and small children being abused, trafficked and sold into slavery by Joe, the Toe and the cartels?
          You might want to look closer at the Capitol fiasco. Yes, Trump supporters were there, and some got way out of line… as did many left wing idiots, the same ones who were burning our cities with the support of democrats all last year.

          1. Only people who believe Biden is trafficking children are delusional crazy Q folks. Q is a lie, Trump lies, and anyone still supporting him is a traitor like Trump. Period.

          2. If there were left wingers in the 1.6.21 crowd why are the R’s in Congress so against establishing a commission to find and punish them?
            Logic Fail.

    3. Actually the founding fathers beloved mainly in individual freedom and personal rights. The left has strayed from the original intent in most constitutional arguments. The founding fathers were clear. The right to bear arms is the right to bear arms. Couldn’t be more clear.

        1. Back before the parties switched sides. It’s not to late for you to go back and take 6th grade history no doubt for the first time.

            1. If its not true and it didnt happen why are the stautes of confederate soldiers that were originally put up by Democrats in the south now being defended by Republicans?

      1. You’ve been brainwashed by Carol Andersons new book I see. She ascribes many motives to gun ownership that are pure fantasy in her own head.

    4. What do you mean? It’s pretty clear, as a citizen you have a right to protect yourself from overreaching government, it never says right to bear muskets, it doesn’t say what type of arms you can have, you commie. This argument is so old and dated, I can’t believe the internet lets you still post it. Gotta be able to protect ourselves from the liberal power hungry left democrat toolsacks. Imagine if the forefathers while writing the 2nd amendment said “hmmm…muskets are too powerful, lets use bow and arrows to define arms”. If so, we would have British accents right now, you BETA.

        1. You booms….you are the ultimate little Beta Male that would never come up to my face and say a damn thing……would you? I smell BETA MALE!!!

    1. I’m glad you own an AR, it doesn’t sound like you have a clue how to safely use it. I would recommend a gun safety course from a certified instructor.
      Just how many killing sprees have you been on, Tia? That’s a rather disturbing thing to say.

    2. It means you are a fool. You post the stupidest crap on here. Sure use a AR to open a bottle of wine. BTW do you even know what the AR in AR 13 stands for? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not ASSAULT RIFLE.

      1. Assault rifle, gun, pistol, shotgun, musket, etc. Call it what you want. It’s a little weapon for little people. You’ll never understand until you can move beyond your limited brainstem function. Try your frontal lobe. Or maybe yours was scrambled.

        1. It maybe a little weapon to little people like you, but it is just another tool to grown people like me. Is that the best your little scrambled brainstem could come up with?

        2. The only little weapon is your little brain with its little knowledge and little capacity to understand what others with bigger weapons ie. bigger more powerful brains are talking about.

      2. Hey Clowny, nowhere except in comments by fools like you who obviously didn’t read the article, does anyone claim that AR stands for “assault rifle.”

  3. adjustable buttstocks are for fitting different size shooters. 6″doesn’t make a difference ask any woman. it comes in many different barrel sizes 16-24.come in many different calibres 223,6mm arc,224 valkyrie,6.5 grendel and many more. it’s used in competition and for hunting these are just some of the reasons it’s the most popular rifle system in the country

    1. None of the little BETA males on here want to here truth. They think the AR stands for assault rifle. They think they are machine guns. They have never used a gun in their life. They fail to recognize more people are killed with knives in the use than all rifles put together, they won’t even look it up. They are a sad bunch.

        1. Pathetic little soul who lives in fear??? You’re the one who gets their panties in a twist every time someone/judge comments pro-firearms . . .

  4. Yay! At last a judge who understands an AR-15 is just another semi-automatic rifle and not a weapon of war. Love mine; accurate and bone stock, iron sights and a sling. Lots of fun shooting plastic milk jugs, clay pigeons set on ground that shotgunners missed, and various tin cans.

    1. Although we rarely agree, I also use iron sights on mine. I don’t need all that techno-babble on there. Get good with something that will always work. Iron sights always work and are very accurate.

        1. Oh sure, GPS is great. But when we have an EMP or giant solar flare, none of that will work. Knowing how to use a compass could be a life saving skill. Heck, even lost in the woods, batteries only last so long. Call me old fashioned, but I like old school and teach it first. New school is fine, as long as you have some old tech to rely on when technology fails you. I’m not always successful, but I try to be well prepared in everything I do.

      1. Yep, it’s amazing how accurate a peep sight is when the shooter does his/her part. Plus iron sights don’t fog, don’t need batteries, rarely break and rarely get knocked out of alignment, and best of all, they don’t cost $200 to $500.

        1. Just like the trusty old sextants! I’m kidding. I learned on iron sights, was thrilled when I tried peep sights, and ventured into scopes later. Rifles have far surpassed my ability with a naked eye.

    1. The constitution has amendments and changes as we evolve. It’s dynamic. People who site a document written over 200 years ago need to move on. This isn’t the 1770’s people. Your little “right” to possess a firearm is not etched in stone. Grow up.

      1. Correct! And it hasn’t changed in regards to the 2nd Amendment in 200+ years, because they got it right the first time. That’s over 200+ years that they could have changed or eliminated it and no one has bother to try. (Not that it will be easy to change in the future.)

      2. Actually it is, as well as your freedom in the first amendment to say that the constitution is bogus now. The government does not give us this freedom. It is ours as a right where the government cannot take it away. Sounds like you may need to brush up on your constitutional history which again by the way also allows you to be the moron you are.

        1. Clown, that’s not true at all. The Constitution, properly capitalized, has been changed 33 times since 1789 when it was ratified. If you’ve read it, you know that it can be changed and there is a process for doing so. Living up to your name?

  5. What a crock. None of this matters. We don’t need AR’s as private citizens. Despite the post above trying to say they use them for hunting with a 5 round clip, that is just silly. What are you hunting with a .223? Rabbit? I have one myself, but will likely turn it in to be destroyed someday. If I want to go shooting, i’ll use my pistol and hunt with a real mans weapon, a 30-06 that was my dads. Time to move past the uncompromising idiocracy.

    1. Need has nothing to do with firearm ownership. We own them because we want them and have the right to own them. Those who don’t want to own them have the right not to own them, but not the right to tell others what they can and cannot do.

    2. I will buy that AR off you so you can rest easier knowing that it won’t jump out of the cabinet and hurt you. Through the proper channels of course.

    3. Hmm ridiculous comment. Ar’s come in many calibers. ..224, 300acc,.308,6 mm, 6.5 creedmoor, 6.5 Grendel. And as for a 30-06 being a man’s gun…it is a reliable caliber however I like the .308 and 6.5 creedmoor near same energy down range up to 700yds and much lighter to carry long distance.

    4. 30-06 is available on an AR platform.
      I guess you’ll have to say that your Dad wasn’t a real man.
      And I prefer the 5 round clips for any kind of shooting, it’s much easier to shoot off a bench or rest.

  6. You little gun girls need to man up. Go kill that doe with your k-bar. Or just continue to hunt in your blinds or tree stands. Don’t “hunt” or stalk the animal. Just wait until it walks by. Alpha? I think not. Maybe a little whimpy.

    1. I’ve never used a blind or a deer stand . . . and I’ve killed my share of deer. And yes, I’ve used my hunting knife (not a K-Bar) to finish more than one deer. I prefer to make “clean” kills, but that doesn’t always happen, so the most humane way to put a deer down, is with a “clean” kill. I don’t believe it is humane to wound an animal and make it suffer trying to get away . . . suffering a slow death . . . which is what you are advocating. BTW, I’ve never killed a doe, something about allowing the species to continue.

    2. Hunt with just a knife. A guy used a spear for hunting a few years ago. Posted it on social media then was chastised because it was inhumane to use a spear because the animal suffered. See hunters go “pure” and the you cry about the suffering of the animal. Make up your minds.

    3. You sound like an inner-city kid, maybe 17?
      I don’t imagine you’ve ever hunted anything larger than a Pokemon. Dad must have been sooo proud.

    1. Funny thing is, I don’t feel “big” when I carry a firearm . . . I do feel responsible for how I might use it and I feel prepared to protect myself and my loved ones. Or, I feel ready to put some meat on the table humanely.

  7. Semi-automatic weapons are designed with one purpose in mind–to kill as many people as possible in the least amount of time. And time and time again they are the weapons of choice for those so motivated. Say what you will about the second amendment and its weird dependent clause that has been twisted into a justification for giving any damaged soul who wants to the ability to–in a flash–ruin forevermore the lives and hopes and dreams of massive numbers of victims and their loved ones. Whether some of the commenters on this story are St. Petersburg trolls bent on disrupting our society or simply run-of-the-mill anti-social nihilists, they should reacquaint themselves with the polling that shows overwhelming support for gun safety legislation.

    1. There is no “overwhelming” support for anything more than safety legislation. Safety does not include banning, registering, or limiting of magazines. What you think is “overwhelming” is the volume of a small minority, amplified by the MSM.

    2. Designed to kill or protect? Depends on the side of the weapon you are on. Were muskets designed to kill or protect in the civil war? Were autos designed to kill or protect in wwII? Again it depends on the side you are on. However if only the largest forces and governments were the only ones that had either you would most likely be speaking German, or Japanese or at least with an awful Briatish accent right now. Have some historical context please.

    3. Bill, I think it’s about who uses the tool and how they use the tool. Not about the tool. Tools by themselves are not inherently harmful; hammer, saw, screw driver, firearm. Many tools can be used to harm. Only the person who uses the tool can make the tool harm another. Automobiles might be a good example of a tool that can be used for beneficial use or to cause harm, intentionally or unintentionally.

  8. Just like the trusty old sextants! I’m kidding. I learned on iron sights, was thrilled when I tried peep sights, and ventured into scopes later. Rifles have far surpassed my ability with a naked eye.

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