California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday that the state will appeal a decision by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez that threw out the state’s ban on modern sporting rifles as a violation of the Second Amendment, blasting the judge for his ruling and declaring that Benitez is a “wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA.”
Beyond the fact that the NRA wasn’t a party to the case, known as Miller v. Bonta, Newsom’s comments are a perfect demonstration of the fact that primary response from gun control activists and anti-gun politicians to Benitez’s decision has been to attack the judge himself, instead of offering up a cogent argument against the his legal rationale for determining that the state’s ban on the most commonly-sold rifle in the United States runs afoul of the Constitution.
“He’s unserious; Judge Benitez is a stone-cold ideologue,” said the Democratic governor of his judicial adversary. “He will continue to do damage, mark my word.”
The Firearms Policy Coalition hit back, condemning what it called Newsom’s “outrageous and callous personal attacks” on Benitez.
“Newsom’s verbal assaults on a long-respected member of the judiciary shows his deep and continuing disrespect for the rule of law, the judiciary, the Constitution, and the human rights of California citizens,” the group said in a statement. “Those speakers who attacked Judge Benitez’s character should be ashamed.”
It’s rich for Newsom to complain that Benitez is “unserious,” given the serious consideration that the judge gave to every one of California’s arguments in favor of keeping the ban in place over the course of the 94-page decision he delivered last Friday. As the Firearms Policy Coalition noted in their response to Newsom’s comments, the case “presented the Court with the largest record ever compiled in any challenge to a ban on so-called ‘assault weapons,’ including many expert witnesses testifying on a wide variety of relevant matters ranging from U.S. history, constitutional law, and firearms history and technology, to self-defense and use of force and the unorganized militia.”
The attorneys representing the state of California presented their own expert witnesses and their own evidence, but as Benitez explained in his decision, much of that evidence didn’t hold up to scrutiny. From the judge’s opinion:
The Attorney General stresses the notion that modern rifles are disproportionally used in crime. It seems like it could be true, but it is not supported by the evidence. More importantly, disproportionality is not a constitutional test. Heller and McDonald demonstrate the opposite is true. The Court struck down bans on handguns in the District of Columbia and Chicago at a time when handguns were disproportionately used in crime.
… Moreover, there is little evidence that modern rifles are used disproportionately in crime. The Attorney General cites the 1994 Congressional House Report as evidence. The House Report actually said that assault weapons were “a growing menace to our society of proportion to their numbers,” rather than out of proportion to their numbers. Perhaps the Report was published with a scrivener’s error. Regardless, a single citation to a 27-year-old Report cannot be said to fairly support California’s conclusions. There is no evidence that California’s Legislature relied on the 1994 House Report when it passed AWCA five years earlier in 1989, or later when it adopted a features-based definition in 1999. There is no evidence that the California Legislature conducted its own study on whether modern rifles were being disproportionately used in crime in California in 1989, or 1999. There is no evidence that the California Legislature relied on studies from other states. There is no evidence that the State was making a sensitive policy judgment. There is, however, evidence at the time of the federal ban that assault weapons were rarely used as crime guns.
Does that sound “unserious” to you?
The truth is that it’s Benitez who takes the Second Amendment seriously, and it’s anti-gun nuts like Gavin Newsom who’re offering up nothing more than talking points like “No other state in America has been more progressive and aggressive on gun safety than the state of California” and “Gun safety saves lives period, full stop.”
There’s nothing “progressive” about California’s gun control laws. “Repressive” would be a much better description of the restrictions that the state has put in place on the right to keep and bear arms. Newsom may be proud of his record when it comes to criminalizing the exercise of a civil right, but that says far more about his warped ideology than the legality or righteousness of the gun control laws he embraces.
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