California's ban on assault weapons was overturned by a local, federal judge Friday. Several gun owners’ advocates, from San Diego County, were listed as plaintiffs in the case. The issue is sparking controversy from both sides of the aisle.
U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez said; California's definition of "illegal military-style rifles" strips Californians of their right to own weapons, commonly allowed in other states, and violates the constitutional right to bear arms.
“Under no level of heightened scrutiny can the law survive," Benitez said. He issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law but stayed it for 30 days to give state Attorney General Rob Bonta time to appeal.
Michael Schwartz, the Executive Director of San Diego County Gun Owners PAC, one of the plaintiffs in the case, praised the judge’s ruling.
"We were successful in making the case that you do have the right to keep and bear arms, that these firearms are not exotic or dangerous and they're just like any other firearm and shouldn't be banned," Shwartz said.
He said victims of violent crimes and self-defense are his biggest motivations in getting the ban reversed.
“We want to make sure that people are able to defend themselves, and that they have the most effective tool in order to do that," Shwartz said.
But critics worry the semi-automatic style guns are too dangerous.
"Most of the major mass shootings are taking place because of these type weapons," said Gerald Johnson, a local chaplain and anti-gun violence advocate. He said he hopes the ban stays in place to protect more potential victims of gun violence.
"It's insensitive that you would allow, and put, innocent people in harm’s way by allowing assault weapons. Removing the ban, I mean really?" Johnson said.
Benitez spoke favorably of modern weapons and compared the weapon to a swiss army knife for its versatility.
“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 judge said in his ruling's introduction.
Governor Gavin Newsom fired back at the judge's comment and said, in a statement, that the comparison “completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who’ve lost loved ones to this weapon," Newsom said. “We’re not backing down from this fight, and we’ll continue pushing for common sense gun laws that will save lives.”