The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked a District Court ruling that overturned California’s assault weapons ban on Monday, granting a stay while other firearm cases are currently awaiting decisions.
Earlier this month, District Court judge Robert T. Benitez ended California’s 32 year ban against assault weapons, saying that the ban was unconstitutional. Specifically, Benitez noted that the ban went against the Second Amendment and the incorrect definition of assault weapons.
“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” noted Judge Benitez in his ruling of Miller v. Bonta earlier this month. “Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller and United States v. Miller. Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR15 type rifle. Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.”
However, the ruling created a large backlash from many prominent Californian lawmakers including Governor Gavin Newsom and state Attorney General Rob Bonta. Within days of the District Court ruling, Bonta and the state of California appealed the decision and asked for a stay extending past the normal 30-day period until after a definite appeals court ruling.
Ninth Circuit judges Barry Silverman, Jacqueline Nguyen, and Ryan D. Nelson agreed with California on Monday. While the stay doesn’t overturn Benitez’s decision in Miller v. Bonta, the 9th Circuit’s reversal will now not occur until the appellate decision, and then only if given in the District Court’s favor.
Currently, the Ninth Circuit Court is hearing several similar Second Amendment cases, many associated with the assault weapons ban. The outcome of these cases, most notably Rupp v. Bonta, would likely influence the ruling of the Miller suit, with the court agreeing to a stay until a decision is made in those cases.
“The district court’s June 4, 2021 order and judgment are stayed pending resolution of Rupp v. Bonta,” said the court on Monday. “The stay shall remain in effect until further order of this court.”
Reaction to the stay
Despite the stay not actually overturning the decision by Judge Benitez, gun control advocates and several Californian lawmakers praised the appellate court decision for the stay on Monday and Tuesday, noting that the ban will now stay in place for as long as there is no decision in Miller v. Bonta.
“The 9th Circuit granted our motion to stay the district court’s ruling in Miller v. Bonta,” tweeted Bonta on Monday. “This leaves our assault weapons laws in effect while appellate proceedings continue. We won’t stop defending these life-saving laws.”
#BREAKING: The 9th Circuit granted our motion to stay the district court’s ruling in Miller v. Bonta.
This leaves our assault weapons laws in effect while appellate proceedings continue.
— Rob Bonta (@AGRobBonta) June 21, 2021
However, many legal experts noted that stays are usually granted in such judicial scenarios.
“I wouldn’t call this a victory,” Southern California lawyer Ronnie Stein, who has been a part of past cases involving firearms in the past, explained to the Globe on Tuesday. “Stays are usually given when there are other similar cases out there that could change how the case is ruled. Miller v. Bonta is just getting a lot of attention because it’s a major decision on gun rights. Stays happen all the time and it’s not indicative on what the court will ultimately decide. Especially since the 9th, which has usually been more on the liberal side in recent history, saw a huge swing in conservative justices being appointed there during Trump’s tenure. So while there is a stay, it is still very much unknown what the court will do.”
The Miller case is expected to be delved into more following a decision on the Rupp case, which is currently being heard in an 11 judge en banc panel.