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What the overturning of California’s assault weapons ban means for America

A judge’s decision on the 32-year-old law could have national implications if it heads to the US supreme court

By Lois Beckett and Abené Clayton | 8 June 2021

THE GUARDIAN — In a polarizing decision on Friday night, a federal judge struck down California’s 32-year-old ban on assault weapons, ruling that it violated Americans’ constitutional right to own guns for self protection. In the 94-page decision, Judge Roger Benitez compared an AR-15 rifle to a “Swiss army knife” and falsely claimed that more Californians had died from the Covid-19 vaccine than from mass shootings. [See footnote]

Although the decision has sparked outrage in California, it has the potential to have a much broader national impact. If the case is appealed to the supreme court, the court’s new conservative majority could use the legal battle to rule that banning military-style “assault weapons” is unconstitutional, undermining the Biden administration’s endorsement of a national ban.

Here’s what you need to know about the decision:

What did the judge rule?

California’s longstanding rule prohibits the manufacturing, purchasing, and possession of firearms that are categorized as assault weapons. Judge Benitez, who was nominated to the bench by George W Bush in 2003 and has a history of siding with gun lobbyists on matters such as background checks and magazine capacity limits, found that California’s restrictions violate the second amendment. Among other arguments, he reasons that the state’s goal to prevent mass shootings via the ban [was ineffective and ultimately] puts residents at risk of not having the means to defend themselves against home intruders. […]

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