A federal appeals court has blocked a district judge’s ruling to overturn California’s three-decade ban on assault weapons while the case works its way through the system.
In a brief ruling filed on Monday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s request for a stay pending appeal of District Judge Roger Benitez’s order from earlier this month lifting the state’s assault weapons ban.
Bonta announced the court’s decision in a statement, saying the state’s assault weapons ban, in effect since 1989, will remain in place amid appellate proceedings.
“We won’t stop defending these life-saving laws,” he said via Twitter.
The ruling comes in a case filed in 2019 by California resident James Miller and several other individuals as well as the San Diego County Gun Owners Political Action Committee arguing the state’s gun laws banning assault weapons were unconstitutional.
In early June, Benitez ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating “[l]ike the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.”
He said the AR-15, a weapon that has been used in several mass shootings in the United States, is “[g]ood for both home and battle” and its ownership is protected under U.S. law.
In overturning the state’s ban, Benitez gave the state 30 days to appeal, which Bonta did on June 10 while asking the 9th Circuit Court to stay the ruling and leave the law in effect amid the appeal process.
In the court’s ruling Monday, the three-judge panel gave both parties 14 days to file a status report.
The controversial AR-15 has often been at the forefront of debate over assault weapons bans in the United States as it has been used in several high-profile mass shootings, including most recently to kill 10 people in March at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo. The weapon was also used during a shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in 2012, killing 12 people. It, along with other weapons, was used to kill 61 people in a Las Vegas shooting in 2017.
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