Following on the heels of Freedom Week, Judge Roger Benitez, patron saint of California gun owners, recently issued a decision on another 2nd Amendment case, Miller v. Bonta.
In this case, he ruled California’s assault weapons ban was unconstitutional.
But what does that mean for California residents?
Well, we’re here to help wade through the legalese and give you the facts you need to know – especially if you’re stuck behind California state lines.
So read on to get spun up.
But first, a disclaimer: While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice and is for educational and entertainment purposes only.
Table of Contents
Where It Began
First things first, no, unfortunately, those of us in California can’t all go out and buy standard AR-15s like our friends in free states can.
Like most legal proceedings, there is still a long way to go…
But to put the Miller vs. Bonta decision and current situation in context, it’s helpful to understand the history of the case.
In August 2019, three San Diego residents brought a lawsuit against the State of California challenging the statewide ban on “assault weapons.”
Along the way, many pro-2A groups joined the lawsuit, including the California Gun Rights Foundation, the Firearms Policy Coalition, and the Second Amendment Foundation, just to name a few.
Similar cases had been filed around this time — some also challenging the ban while others challenged the magazine ban.
The case was originally filed as Miller v. Becerra since Xavier Becerra was the Attorney General of California at the time.
But it’s taken so long to wind its way through the court system that the state now has a new attorney general. So, the case name was updated to reflect the name of the current California AG, Rob Bonta.
Lots of legal filings and procedures later, with supporting briefs by pro-2A groups, as well as the State of Arizona, Judge Benitez reached a decision in June 2021.
In his ruling, he determined that California’s Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA) — what Californians know as the “assault weapons ban” — was unconstitutional.
Breaking Down the Decision
So how did Judge Benitez come to this conclusion?
With a solid opening line, “Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.”
What else do you need?
However, the crux of the ruling comes rooted in other Second Amendment cases, including Heller, which was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Basically, it centers on: AR-15s are commonly owned by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.
Benitez also supported his ruling by pointing out the flaws in the AWCA, including that there didn’t seem to be any evidence that banning AR-15s outweighed the right to use them.
He noted that the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, didn’t seem to decrease crimes committed with AR-15 style firearms during the ban.
Judge Benitez even pointed to California’s amendment in 2000 to the original 1989 ban that singled out features on AR-15s.
There’s no supporting evidence that features like pistol grips or flash hiders, if banned, accomplish anything to reduce crimes committed with AR-15s.
Instead, the California legislature only seemed to ban those features preventing AR-15s from being purchased.
Further, the ruling used data and statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation showing that knives accounted for deaths at a rate seven times higher than deaths by rifles.
And Californians are three times more likely to be murdered by an attacker’s bare hands, fists, or feet than by rifle.
Banning AR-15s based on the idea that rifle-related deaths are some type of epidemic, especially when compared to deaths caused by other means, just didn’t make any sense — Constitutional or not.
What This Means for California Gun Owners
So, what does this mean for Californians?
Like we said in the beginning; unfortunately, nothing really changes in the short term.
As soon as the decision was reached, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the State would appeal the decision. Less than a week later, an appeal was filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Not surprisingly, the 9th Circuit put the ruling on hold.
In fact, they put the entire case on hold while waiting for the outcome of two other cases.
That case, also previously decided by Benitez, awaits a decision from the 9th Circuit.
Of course, no matter which way the decision goes, the ruling will likely be appealed.
Read more on current California gun laws here.
For those who are unable to leave for greener (and freer) pastures, Miller vs. Bonta is at least a sign that there are still judges that support the 2nd Amendment.
Further, gun owners in California have more support than they think they do.
Sticking around and fighting the good fight may not pay off immediately, but it definitely is one worth fighting.
Whether you show your support by donating to groups like the Second Amendment Foundation or Firearms Policy Coalition or just talking to others about gun ownership to dispel the myth of “scary black guns.” Every little bit helps in the fight for our freedom.
In the meantime, we at Pew Pew Tactical will keep you updated on this evolving story.
How do you support 2A rights? Let us know your favorite orgs or ways you support the cause in the comments below. If you’re looking to purchase a gun in Cali, check out our Buyer’s Guide and get the deets on Featureless AR-15 Rifles [California Build Guide].