Attorney General Bonta and Governor Newsom Announce Appeal of Decision to Overturn California’s Three-Decade-Old Assault Weapons Ban

Thursday, June 10, 2021
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The Attorney General will also seek a stay of the District Court’s ruling

SAN FRANCISCO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Governor Gavin Newsom announced today that the state has appealed a recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in Miller v. Bonta that declared California's assault weapons laws unconstitutional. The Attorney General will also ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to stay the district court’s ruling, which would extend the current 30-day stay of the decision and leave the laws in effect throughout the appeal process.

“Equating firearms that have been used in many of the deadliest mass shootings in this country with Swiss Army knives has no basis in law or fact,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The ban on assault weapons will not put an end to all gun violence, but it is one important tool the state has to protect the safety of Californians while also respecting the rights of law-abiding residents who choose to possess firearms. We have appealed the district court’s ruling and will continue our defense of the state’s commonsense gun laws.”

“California’s assault weapons ban has saved lives, and we refuse to let these weapons of war back onto our streets,” said Governor Newsom. “This ban was enacted after a shooting that took the lives of five schoolchildren and injured countless more, and my administration will do whatever it takes to continue protecting Californians and leading the nation in gun safety laws. This is a fight California will never back down from, period.”

On June 4, 2021, a federal judge overturned California’s 32-year ban on assault weapons, calling the law unconstitutional. At issue in Miller v. Bonta is an amendment to the Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA). In 1989, the California Legislature passed the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act, which classified specific brands and models of semi-automatic firearms as assault weapons and banned the ownership and transfer of those firearms. In 2000, an amendment to the law took effect, adding a flexible, features-based definition of assault weapons to prevent gun manufacturers from producing functionally identical firearms to the ones that are prohibited. In its ruling, the District Court enjoined only specific provisions of the Act. 

Like California’s other commonsense gun laws, the ban on assault weapons was passed to curb violence in the state, including the injuries and lives lost during mass shootings. According to Everytown, for the past 12 years, the use of an assault weapon in a mass shooting has led to “six times as many people shot per incident than when there was no assault weapon.” In addition to prioritizing public safety, California’s gun laws also respect the rights of law-abiding Californians who choose to possess firearms for self-defense. 

When the Court issued its ruling, it stayed the decision for 30 days, so the ban on assault weapons remains in full force and effect. 

A copy of the Notice of Appeal is available here.

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