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State officials announce appeal of federal judge’s ruling that overturned assault weapons ban

Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta and gun control advocates explained the necessity of the ban of assault weapons.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Attorney General Rob Bonta announced California has submitted an appeal to the decision to overturn the 32-year-old assault weapons ban in California.

"We can agree that the decision was disappointing. And the reasoning, such as equating assault weapons to Swiss Army knives and false claims that COVID-19 vaccines have killed more people than mass shootings, was shocking. In many ways, the opinion was disturbing, and troubling, and a great concern but we cannot be, and we are not deterred by this ruling," Bonta said.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego overruled Friday, June 4, California’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons, calling it a “failed experiment” that violates the constitutional right to bear arms. He went on to say the state’s definition of illegal military-style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons commonly allowed in most other states. California first restricted assault weapons in 1989, with multiple updates to the law since then.

Bonta explained the current ban on assault weapons will stay in effect for the duration of the appeal process. Gov. Newsom and others speaking Thursday described last week’s ruling as an outlier that conflicts with at least six other decisions upholding assault weapons laws. They say the ruling is designed to get the issue before a recently more conservative U.S. Supreme Court. 

Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, pointed out the decision to overturn the assault weapon ban came on Gun Violence Awareness Day.

"A day when we respect and honor the lives of those lost to gun violence in this country," Thomas said.

At the press conference to announce California's appeal of Benitez's decision, Brady California State President Mattie Scott shared how gun violence affects the communities within California and why she believes the ban on assault weapons should remain.

"What he calls the kind of weapon that killed my son, akin to a pocket knife pocket knives were not invented to kill as many people as possible pocket knives don't tear families apart. They don't shoot up schools, churches, movie theaters, and street corners," Scott said. "I have buried too many friends and family, because of gun violence, including last year during the height of the coronavirus pandemic."

The weekend Benitez's decision was announced, Gov. Newsom tweeted his reactions regarding the federal judge who overturned California's assault weapons ban. In one tweet, the governor said "Overturning CA's assault weapon ban and comparing an AR-15 to a SWISS ARMY KNIFE is a disgusting slap in the face to those who have lost loved ones to gun violence. This is a direct threat to public safety and innocent Californians. We won't stand for it."

Dr. Andre Campbell of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital explained the body when shot by an assault rifle is damaged in a way that could never be matched by a Swiss Army knife.

"The extent of injuries of one does not equal the other. The assault weapon fires bigger bullets at a faster rate of speed and causes absolute devastation to the human body. It's as if a bomb went off in the tissues of the patients," Campbell said. "There's no way that a simple pocketknife, that you buy at a store can be compared to weapons of mass destruction."

Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) hosted a press conference at the state capitol alongside other legislators and gun control advocates hours before the governor's press event. They voiced their support of Attorney General Bonta's decision to appeal.

"We are here to raise our voice to support our new attorney general Rob Bonta to appeal this dangerous decision," Gipson said.

The Firearms Policy Coalition condemned the governor’s comments and says it will fight any move for a stay that would harm law-abiding gunowners.

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