Judicial branch badly misfires on gun control
Incredibly, a federal judge in California has declared unconstitutional the state’s ban on certain assault weapons, equating the rapid-firing AR-15 gun with a Swiss Army knife. Thus has the judiciary made a mockery of its longstanding reputation as ultimate protector of the public against extremist rulings.
Judge Roger Benitez of the Southern District of California, in a 94-page ruling on a 1989 gun prohibition, argued that “like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” he wrote. It was not, he added, akin to “bazookas, howitzers or machine guns,” but instead “fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles.”
The AR-15 fires multiple bullets in seconds, and California attorney general Rob Bonta quickly called for and was granted a 30-day stay in which he could to file an appeal. The decision, he said, “is fundamentally flawed. There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with Swiss Army knives.”
Bonta noted that the ruling came “on Gun Violence Day and after recent shootings in our own California communities.” In April, President Joe Biden released executive orders seeking to curb gun violence. Last month, the Justice Department proposed new restrictions on so-called “ghost guns,” firearms parts kits to be assembled bearing no traceable serial numbers.
California’s law has been in place for more than 30 years. A 10-year federal ban on assault weapons originally intended for military application expired in 2004 after a long campaign led by the National Rifle Association, the chief gun lobby.
Benitez has defended his ruling, noting there were more than 185,000 such weapons registered in California. In a pointed slap at press criticism minimizing his decision, he said it was “an average case about average guns. … One is to be forgiven if one is persuaded by news media and others that the nation is awash with murderous AR-15 assault rifles.”
The judge also wrote, “In California, murder by knife occurs seven times more often than murder by rifle” — as if that was a reasonable rationale for continued easy availability of the AR-15.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, called the ruling comparing such weapons with a Swiss Army knife “a disgusting slap in the face to those who have lost loved ones to gun violence.”
One such father, Fred Guttenberg, who became a gun-control activist after losing a child in, told CNN: “My daughter’s in a cemetery … because a Swiss Army knife was not used” in her shooting in Parkland, Florida. “If a Swiss Army knife was used, my daughter and most of those other kids and adults would be alive today.”