A federal judge is again considering whether to overturn the California assault weapons ban in place since 1989.
Judge Roger Benitez, a senior U.S. district judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, has heard final statements in the Miller v. Bonta lawsuit once again and both sides await a decision that could come at any time.
Current law prohibits the selling, transferring, or owning of what could be considered an “assault weapon.”The ban also covers magazines with an ammunition capacity larger than 10 rounds. If the ban is struck down, California gun owners would be able to buy and sell high-capacity magazines and own an “assault weapon.”
Previous Benitez Ruling Led to ‘Freedom Week’
Benitez heard this case before in 2021, when he overturned the long-standing California assault weapon ban. One week later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the law and ordered the lawsuit to be heard by Benitez’s court once more.
During the week that the law was overturned, hundreds of thousands of high-capacity ammunition magazines were purchased legally during what became celebrated as “Freedom Week” by Second Amendment advocates.
Now the case is back in Benitez’s court — only this time the higher courts may be on his side.
The hearing comes after the Supreme Court recently overturned the New York law requiring individuals to provide “proper cause” when applying for a concealed carry license. This set the new standard for gun restrictions in the higher courts, despite the rise in mass shootings throughout California.
Potential Supreme Court Case
If Benitez overturns the California law again, the Supreme Court may eventually make the ultimate decision on the case.
For now, gun-control and gun-rights advocates are anxiously awaiting Benitez’s decision.
Rick Travis, who is the legislative director for the California Rifle and Pistol Association, says that overturning the ban would be a major win for his organization and supporters.
However, he said, “No matter what happens either way with this decision nothing’s going to change for the foreseeable future. And, when I say that, I mean for years.”
Newsom Predicts Judge Will Overturn the Ban
Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a news conference last month that Benitez will again strike down the ban.
“He’s likely to overturn our assault weapons ban. Stay tuned. Large capacity magazine clips. That will likely also be thrown out by the same ideologues,” said Newsom.
C.D. Michel, attorney for California Rifle and Pistol Association, has a different take on Benitez than the governor does.
“The judge is fair, thorough, and a thoughtful jurist who holds the state to its burden of proof,” said Michel, a southern California attorney. “As a refugee from the Cuban revolution, he has seen tyranny up close and personal.”
According to the American Bar Association, Benitez has exhibited an “unfavorable temperament.”
And, on Thursday, a misconduct complaint was filed against Benitez after he ordered the 13-year-old daughter of a defendant to be handcuffed in court.
On the other hand, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has described Benitez as “a man of the highest ethical standard, that he has superb demeanor, intelligence, pragmatism, and fairness.”