The Slatest

Judge Overturns California Assault Weapons Ban, Comparing AR-15 to Swiss Army Knife

Dordon Brack, pulls a semi-automatic AR-15 off the rack, that is for sale at Good Guys Guns & Range on February 15, 2018 in Orem, Utah.
Dordon Brack, pulls a semi-automatic AR-15 off the rack, that is for sale at Good Guys Guns & Range on February 15, 2018 in Orem, Utah. George Frey/Getty Images

A federal judge overturned California’s ban on assault weapons that has been in place for more than 30 years, declaring that it violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms and amounts to a “failed experiment.” U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez said that the way California has described the military-style rifles that are illegal to own means law-abiding citizens of the state can’t have weapons that most other states allow. The restrictions on the use of the weapons are “hereby declared unconstitutional and shall be enjoined,” Benitez wrote. Although the judge issued a permanent injunction forbidding the law from being enforced, he also granted a 30-day stay of the ruling to allow an appeal.

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In his ruling, Benitez said modern weapons are used for legal reasons and are a good tool to have. “Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle,” he wrote. Benitez also criticized the news media, saying that it’s their fault assault weapons have a bad reputation. “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,” he wrote. “In California, murder by knife occurs seven times more often than murder by rifle.”

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly criticized the ruling, taking particular issue at the way the judge likened the Swiss Army Knife to the AR-15. “I grew up with deep respect for the judicial process and the importance of a judge’s ability to make impartial fact-based rulings, but the fact that this judge compared the AR-15—a weapon of war that’s used on the battlefield—to a Swiss Army Knife 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 said in a statement. California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the ruling “is fundamentally flawed” and vowed that it will be appealed. “There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with swiss army knives,” Bonta said.

The state had argued that overturning the ban on assault rifles would open the door to lots of weapons of war. But Benitez said that was a stretch. “This case is not about extraordinary weapons lying at the outer limits of Second Amendment protection. The banned ‘assault weapons’ are not bazookas, howitzers, or machine guns. Those arms are dangerous and solely useful for military purposes,” reads his ruling, which gun-rights activists celebrated.

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