In June 2021, the Globe reported that District Judge Roger T. Benitez threw out California’s 32-year ban on assault weapons, while also clarifying the deliberate and incorrect use of the label “assault weapon.”
In the case of the AR-15, “AR” stands for “Armalite Rifle,” named after the company that developed it, and not “assault rifle” as so many in the media incorrectly claim.
Benitez’s opening statement in his opinion says it all:
“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. 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, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and United States v Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). 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.”
Almost immediately Attorney General Rob Bonta and Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California would appeal the the judge’s decision in Miller v. Bonta.
This past Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would “empower private citizens to enforce a ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons in the state, citing the same authority claimed by conservative lawmakers in Texas to outlaw most abortions once a heartbeat is detected,” the Associated Press reported.
The Wall Street Journal expanded on this:
“He wants to create a path for private citizens to sue gun manufacturers, sellers and distributors in the state, modeling his proposal after the legal framework used in the Texas law that bans abortions past six weeks.
On the heels of Friday’s Supreme Court ruling allowing the Texas law to remain in effect for now, Mr. Newsom said he would work with the Democratic-dominated Legislature and Attorney General Rob Bonta, also a Democrat, to draft a proposal.”
“The bill would allow private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, sells or distributes assault weapons or ghost gun kits or parts in the state for at least $10,000 per violation.”
But there is a problem with Newsom’s knee-jerk reaction – The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, passed in Congress in 2005, was passed to protect manufacturers from lawsuits going after the gun rather than the person who pulled the trigger.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (2005) is supposed to protect manufacturers from lawsuits going after the gun rather than the person who pulled the trigger. Then again, Newsom has never respected the law.
— Katy Grimes (@KATYSaccitizen) December 12, 2021
As Larry Keene, President of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, explains:
“The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) passed with wide bipartisan support and was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005. The purpose was to stave off lawsuits attempting to hold firearm companies liable for the criminal and unlawful misuse of firearms by criminals and other remote third-parties over whom members of the industry have no control. The lawsuits were meant to put those companies out of business unless they capitulated and agreed to settlements imposing all manner of gun control measures rejected by Congress and state legislatures. The PLCAA keeps activist trial lawyers and gun control groups from placing the blame on the industry for the criminal misuse of legal firearms that are lawfully sold.”
“Newsom said he has directed his staff to work with the state’s Legislature and its Democratic attorney general to pass a law that would let private citizens sue to enforce California’s ban on assault weapons,” the AP reported. “Newsom said people who sue could win up to $10,000 per violation plus other costs and attorneys fees against ‘anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon’ in California.”
Keene was writing in June about a proposed New York bill to remove Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) protections from gun manufacturers in New York.
“Sen. Myrie’s proposal would be akin to a state allowing a lawsuit to be brought against Ford for the actions of a drunk driver that killed someone after getting behind the wheel,” Keene said. “Firearm manufacturers can, and have, been held accountable under the law of product liability for defective products. The law also doesn’t allow protections against knowing violations of the law and other willful misconduct.”
The disinformation campaigns by gun control politicians play fast and loose with the facts.
As one Twitter reply noted, “He (Newsom) knows it’s going to get smacked down. Like so much of what Newsom does, it’s to strike a pose in front of his gullible fans and enjoy the applause.”
He knows it's going to get smacked down. Like so much of what Newsom does, it's to strike a pose in front of his gullible fans and enjoy the applause.
— Phineas Fahrquar (@irishspy) December 12, 2021
Gov. Newsom’s pandering aside, he will undoubtedly have a serious legal fight on his hands.
In his June decision, Judge Benitez even included the definition of Assault Weapons Under § 30515(a), and almost mocked the state’s definition:
A rifle is labeled an “assault weapon” if it is one of three principal types. The first type is a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine but has one of the following prohibiting features: a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the rifle, a thumbhole stock, a folding or telescoping stock, a grenade or flare launcher, a flash suppressor, or a forward pistol grip. The second type is a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine able to hold more than 10 rounds. The third type is a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches. Cal. Penal Code § 30515(a)(1)-(3).16
As an aside, the “assault weapon” epithet is a bit of a misnomer. These prohibited guns, like all guns, are dangerous weapons. However, these prohibited guns, like all guns, can be used for ill or for good. They could just as well be called “home defense rifles” or “anti-crime guns.”
Judge Benitez addressed the state’s wobbly criminal penalties surrounding “assault weapons:”
“…little is found in the Attorney General’s court filings reflecting a goal of preventing violence perpetrated against law-abiding citizens in their homes. Instead, the State’s litigation stance is more like the view recently expressed by a police chief in Oakland, California: we do not want victims to arm themselves; we want them to be good witnesses. Of course, a dead victim is a lousy witness.”
Summing up the state’s stance, Judge Benitez said, “The State prefers a policy of residents not arming themselves with assault weapons, and for those who do, arresting residents.”
Remember, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez was the judge who blocked California’s law requiring background checks for people buying ammunition in 2020, and ruled against a California law which prohibited buying or selling magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
“The experiment has been tried. The casualties have been counted. California’s new ammunition background check law misfires and the Second Amendment rights of California citizens have been gravely injured,” Benitez wrote in his order.