The Second Amendment Has Been ‘Reborn’ in California

Gun Rights

Miracles do still happen on occasion. Or, in the immortal words of sports broadcaster Al Michaels during the culmination of  the USA Olympic hockey men’s team’s seemingly impossible 4-3 victory against the Soviet Union on February 22, 1980, at Lake Placid, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” 

Well, maybe “miracles” is a slight exaggeration, but it would be no exaggeration to say that even in this day and age where common sense isn’t so common, it still prevails now and then, especially when it comes to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, i.e. the right to keep and bear arms. 

It’s especially heartening to see that pro-2A common sense can even prevail in a Left Coast state where wokeism, Political Correctness, and what some say socialism have run amok, namely California, which was once the state that launched the political careers of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan but is nowadays known derisively as the “People’s Republic of Kaliforniastan (PRK).”

Initial Bad News: The Background Behind the Ban

Back on 17 January 1989, a crazed drifter by the name of Patrick Purdy, wielding an AK-style 7.62mm semiautomatic rifle, fired upon the schoolyard of the Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, Calif, resulting in the tragic deaths of five schoolchildren and the wounding of 30 others – including a teacher – before committing suicide with the same weapon. Later that year, as a knee-jerk reaction that exploited this godawful tragedy – and thus embodying the saying “Never let a crisis go to waste” two decades before Rahm Emanuel even officially coined the phrase – California Democratic Party politicians, led by the likes of then-State Senator David Roberti and then-Assembly Speaker pro tempore Mike Roos, sponsored the so-called Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (AWCA), which outlawed the ownership and transfer of over 50 specific brands and models of firearms; not just semiauto rifles, but some pistols and shotguns as well. It was a clear cut case of collective punishment, lumping in the overwhelming law-abiding majority of gun owners with the actions of an evil few.

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Recent Good News: The Ban Is Overturned (At Least For Now)

Fast-forward to 19 October 2023 and a case titled Miller v. Bonta, and, better late than never, that aforementioned common sense finally prevailed, as San Diego-based U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez ruled, based upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) June 2022 Bruen decision, that – hey, whaddya know – the AWCA was indeed a violation of the Second Amendment and therefore unconstitutional. As Reuters correspondent Nate Raymond reports, “Benitez issued an injunction blocking the law, but put that on hold for 10 days so the state could appeal…Benitez in his decision wrote that there were “no founding era dead ringers or historical twins” for California’s assault weapons ban, and that the state could point to no historical laws before it adopted its ban that restricted rifles as they advanced technologically.” 

Naturally, California State Attorney General Rob Bonta threw a hissy fit, calling Judge Benitez’s decision “dangerous and misguided.” Further bloviating that “Weapons of war have no place on California’s streets,” Bonta said. Not to be outdone, Bonta’s ringmaster, Calif. Governor Gavin Newsom, refusing to relent in his wholesale assault (no pun intended) on the Bill of Rights, continues to push his plan for a constitutional amendment to restrict guns.  

Of course, plenty of us who actually know a thing or two about firearms, including Yours Truly and my 19FortyFive colleague Peter Suciu, have repeatedly explained at length how and why semiauto rifles like the AR-15 are not weapons of war (and for that matter, neither are semiauto-only civilian market versions of the AK, FN FAL, HK G3, and so forth). But hey, since when do politicians care to be confused with facts and reason, eh? 

On the polar opposite end of the spectrum from the PRK gun-grabbers, pro-2A groups like the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) lavished praise upon the Benitez decision. In particular, SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb stated that “We’ve known all along the state ban could not hold up under constitutional scrutiny, and we were encouraged by last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Bruen case, which rejected the notion of ‘interest balancing’ when it comes to Second Amendment challenges. Judge Benitez came down on the side of the Constitution and history.” SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut piggybacked onto Alan’s statement by adding that “We are pleased with the Court’s decision and are proud to have vindicated the rights of millions of Californians.”

Where to From Here?

Though gun rights advocates can never afford to get complacent or gloat too loudly, this win in California is just one in a string of victories for the pro-freedom crowd through the United States of America. The likes of Bonta and Newsom are sure to appeal Judge Benitez’s decision from the U.S, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals all the way to the SCOTUS…but recent history is mostly not on  their side (the recent decision upholding the Biden’s “ghost gun” ban being the exception to the rule). For example, just yesterday, (as I type these words), Federal Judge John P. Cronan ruled that New York City’s opprobrious antigun restrictions violated not only the Second Amendment but the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to boot!  

Meanwhile, within my own adopted home state of Maryland, as a follow-up to my August 2023 piece titled “The Second Amendment Is Under Attack In One ‘Blue’ State,” I’m pleased to note that approximately one month ago, in response to a lawsuit filed by Susannah Kipke of Pasadena, the wife of Del. Nicholaus Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, and the Maryland Rifle and Pistol Association, U.S. District Court for Maryland Judge George Levi Russell III issued a preliminary injunction against Gov. Wes Moore’s disingenuously-named “Maryland Gun Safety Act of 2023,” specifically blocking enforcement of the provisions pertaining to where alcohol is sold, near public demonstrations and in private establishments without the owner’s consent. 

These victories serve as a reminder that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.          

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.

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