A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Monday granted a 30-day stay of a California judge’s ruling to overturn the state’s ban on assault weapons.
The order comes just over two weeks after US District Judge Roger Benitez declared California’s 32-year-old Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA) an unconstitutional restriction on the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. Calling the ban a “30-year-old failed experiment,” Benitez’s 94-page opinion emphasized that “[g]overnment is not free to impose its own new policy choices on American citizens when Constitutional Rights are concerned.”
The AWCA was enacted in 1989 as a direct response to a Stockton, California, school shooting earlier that year. The Act banned ownership of AR-15 type rifles, among others. California is one of just seven US states and Washington, DC, (including Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York) that bans at least certain types of assault weapons.
In a statement, California Attorney General Rob Bonta called the decision “fundamentally flawed” and further underscored the importance of “advocat[ing] for and defend[ing] common sense gun laws that will save lives.”
Bonta filed an emergency motion to stay the judgment pending appeal on June 10, urging the appellate court to consider the immediate impacts of the lower court’s decision. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and 21 other states filed a motion of prospective amici curiae and attached a brief in opposition to the emergency motion. According to their brief, “[t]he experience in Arizona and other states shows that modern rifles are common to the point of ubiquity among law-abiding gun owners and their use promotes public safety.” No ruling has been made regarding the prospective amici curiae.
Bonta welcomed Monday’s ruling on Twitter, promising to continue “defending these life-saving laws.” He also noted that California laws permit the state’s assault weapons ban to remain in full effect pending appellate proceedings.