Attorney General Bonta Appeals Misguided District Court Decision on Assault Weapons, Will Defend California’s Authority to Outlaw Weapons of War

Thursday, October 19, 2023
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California’s ban on assault weapons remains in effect

SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today filed a notice of appeal to overturn a district court decision in Miller v. Bonta invalidating California’s decades-old assault weapons ban, the Assault Weapons Control Act. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California found elements of the Assault Weapons Control Act unconstitutional but granted the Attorney General’s request for a stay of the decision to allow the Attorney General to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. At this time, the assault weapons restrictions, including those applicable to firearms defined as assault weapons under California Penal Code section 30515, remain in effect. Attorney General Bonta will appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit and will seek a further stay pending appeal to ensure that these vital public safety protections remain in place to prevent gun-related deaths and injuries in California communities. 

“Weapons of war have no place on California’s streets,” said Attorney General Bonta. “This has been state law in California for decades, and we will continue to fight for our authority to keep our citizens safe from firearms that cause mass casualties. In the meantime, assault weapons remain unlawful for purchase, transfer, or possession in California. The Supreme Court was clear that Bruen did not create a regulatory straitjacket for states. Once again, this district court issued a dangerous and misguided decision and I will work vigorously to reverse it on appeal. We will not stop in our efforts to protect the safety of communities to live without fear of becoming victims of gun violence, while at the same time respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

The district court’s decision involves a challenge to California's Assault Weapons Control Act. In June 2020, following a bench trial, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California held that portions of the law violated the Second Amendment. The Attorney General filed a notice of appeal and successfully petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to stay that judgment, allowing California to continue to enforce the law while the case was pending. After New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen was decided in June 2022, the Ninth Circuit granted the Attorney General's motion to remand the case back to the federal district court. The Attorney General will now appeal the district court’s latest decision to the Ninth Circuit. 

In addition to today’s decision in Miller v. Bonta, the same district court also recently issued a decision invalidating California’s large-capacity magazine ban. Attorney General Bonta has appealed that decision and secured a court order by an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which stayed the decision and allowed the ban to remain in effect pending appeal. Large-capacity magazines are firearm magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The en banc court’s order concluded that the state is likely to succeed on the merits in defending the large-capacity restrictions and that maintaining the restrictions pending appeal is in the best interest of the public safety of Californians. 

Gun violence remains a growing threat to public safety throughout the nation. Mass shootings are on the rise throughout the country and frequently feature assault weapons equipped with large-capacity magazines, causing more deaths and injuries. On average, there are over 130 gun deaths each day and  over 48,000 each year in the U.S. Guns are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents aged 1-17, with U.S. children being more likely to die from gun violence than in any other comparable country. In 2022, California was ranked as the #1 state for gun safety by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and the state saw a 43% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to CDC data, California’s gun death rate was the 7th lowest in the nation and the gun death rate for children under 18 is  less than half (60% below) the average for the rest of the nation.

The notice of appeal can be found here.  

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