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Federal Judge Strikes Down California’s Decades-Old ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban: ‘No Historical Pedigree’

A federal judge blocked California’s “assault weapons” ban Thursday, writing that the law is “extreme” and has “no historical pedigree.”

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, a George W. Bush appointee, struck down the 1989 ban, enacted by the California legislature in response to the Stockton school shooting, which prohibits the transfer, manufacturing and possession of certain semiautomatic weapons. Benitez wrote that American tradition “is rich and deep in protecting a citizen’s enduring right to keep and bear common arms like rifles, shotguns, and pistols” and does not include firearm restrictions based on “looks or attributes.”

The rifles prohibited under the ban are “virtually the same” as other ones legal in the state, except for their looks, Benitez said.

“This case is about California laws that, in contrast to these constitutional principles, make it a crime to acquire and possess many common modern semiautomatic firearms,” the judge wrote. “Modern semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 platform rifle are widely owned by law-abiding citizens across the nation. Other than their looks (the State calls them ‘features’ or ‘accessories’) these prohibited rifles are virtually the same as other lawfully possessed rifles.”

The same judge issued an injunction against a California gun law banning magazines holding more than 10 rounds in September, finding it unconstitutional based on “the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment.”

Benitez stayed his decision for 10 days to allow Attorney General Rob Bonta time to appeal.

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