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CA judge rules semi-auto rifles not protected under 2nd Amendment

A rack of various modern sporting rifles, mostly AR-15s, in Gallenson's Gun Shop, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. (Michael McConville/Wikimedia Commons)
July 29, 2019

A federal judge in California ruled last week that banning semi-automatic rifles is not a violation of the right to bear arms as afforded by the Second Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton of Santa Ana, Calif. ruled on July 22 to uphold the current state law banning the ownership, manufacture, or sale of “semiautomatic rifles and the bullet buttons that alter a conventional rifle into a rapid-fire weapon,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Staton called the rifles “incredibly effective killing machines” that are not needed for self-defense, countering what the California Rifle & Pistol Association asserted in their lawsuit.

She decided that semi-automatic rifles should be deemed “dangerous and unusual weapons” that are used in military service, not civilian homes, and therefore not protected by the Second Amendment.

In her ruling, Staton “cited congressional findings that semi-automatic rifles have a rate of fire, 300 to 500 rounds per minute, that makes them ‘virtually undistinguishable’ from machine guns, and that they are the ‘weapons of choice’ for gangs, hate groups, and ‘mentally deranged persons bent on mass murder,'” the San Francisco Chronicle described.

She added that there is clear evidence that the bullets fired by semi-automatic rifles “can pass through both humans and buildings and therefore pose a greater risk of striking innocent bystanders.”

The California Rifle & Pistol Association’s lawsuit cites a 2011 opinion by Brett Kavanaugh that ruled “the Second Amendment should be interpreted to allow possession of semi-automatic weapons and prohibit mandatory gun-registration laws.”

Attorney Eric Tirschwell of Everytown for Gun Safety, an avid supporter of Staton’s ruling said, it is the latest confirmation from the courts that there is no conflict between reasonable gun safety laws and the Second Amendment.”

However, Staton’s ruling is uncommon and goes against the grain of previous court rulings that stated that banning semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines would interfere with law-abiding citizens’ right to self-defense.

Her ruling could be appealed and heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Under California law, semi-automatic rifles are considered to be “assault rifles” whose features that allow the gun to utilize rapid and repeated fire. They were banned in the state for two decades.

When the federal ban expired in 2004, Congress could not secure enough votes to renew it.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been steadily pushing the law after a man opened fire at a San Francisco law office in 1993, killing eight people.

Gun rights supporters are hoping that the added support of Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch will secure semi-automatic rifle ownership and refute Stanton’s ruling if the case makes it to the Supreme Court.