Federal Judge Overturns California’s 3-Decade-Old Assault Weapons Ban

The judge said the ban was a “failed experiment.” California’s governor called the ruling “a direct threat to public safety.”

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A federal judge in California on Friday overturned the state’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons, which he called a “failed experiment,” prompting a sharp retort from the state’s governor.

California prohibited the sale of assault weapons in 1989. The law was challenged in a suit filed in 2019 against the state’s attorney general by plaintiffs including James Miller, a California resident, and the San Diego County Gun Owners, a political action committee.

The judge, Roger T. Benitez of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, wrote that sections of the state’s penal code that defined assault weapons and restricted their use were “hereby declared unconstitutional and shall be enjoined.”

But the judge said he had granted a 30-day stay of the ruling at the request of Attorney General Rob Bonta, a move that would allow Mr. Bonta to appeal it.

Judge Benitez wrote that the case was about “what should be a muscular constitutional right and whether a state can force a gun policy choice that impinges on that right with a 30-year-old failed experiment.”

“It should be an easy question and answer,” Judge Benitez, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush, continued. “Government is not free to impose its own new policy choices on American citizens where constitutional rights are concerned.”

In a statement late Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom called the decision “a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians.”

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

Michael Levenson contributed reporting.

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