Sacramento California, June 9, 2021: Americans Against Gun Violence denounces the ruling by San Diego District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez on June 4, 2021, in the case of James Miller et al v. Rob Bonta, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the State of California, et al, that California’s assault weapons ban violates the Second Amendment.
Judge Benitez’s extreme bias is clear from the very first sentence of his decision, in which he writes, “Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.” Judge Benitez’s entire 94 page opinion reads more like a gun lobby manifesto than the reasoned opinion of an objective jurist.
In his ruling, Judge Benitez makes 96 references to the Supreme Court’s rogue 2008 Heller decision in which a narrow five member majority of the Court reversed over two centuries of legal precedent, including four prior Supreme Court opinions, in ruling that the District of Columbia’s partial handgun ban violated the Second Amendment. Prior to Heller, there was no constitutional right, Second Amendment or otherwise, for anyone in the United States to own any kind of a gun unrelated to service in a “well regulated militia.” In Heller, by ruling that the first half of the Amendment, which refers to the need for a “well regulated militia,” was irrelevant to the proper interpretation of second half of the Amendment, which describes “the right to keep and bear arms,” the narrow five member majority of Supreme Court justices allowed the gun lobby to effectively rewrite the Second Amendment. The late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger had called the gun lobby’s misrepresentation of the Second Amendment “one of the greatest pieces of fraud – ‘I repeat the word fraud’ – on the American public by special interest groups” that he had ever seen in his lifetime.
As egregiously flawed as the 2008 Heller decision is, however, it does not go so far as to state that individual citizens have a constitutional right to own assault rifles. Judge Benitez takes the fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment to a new low in his ruling in Miller v. Bonta.
This is the third such decision that Judge Benitez has issued in recent years. In June of 2017, two days before California’s large capacity magazine ban, which had been approved by almost a 2:1 margin by California voters as part of Proposition 63, was due to go into effect, Benitez ruled in the case of Duncan v. Becerra that the ban violated the Second Amendment. In April of 2020, Benitez ruled in the case of Rhode v. Becerra that the requirement for background checks for ammunition purchases that was included in Proposition 63 also violated the Second Amendment. Both of those rulings have been stayed pending review by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Benitez’s ruling in Miller v. Bonta has also been stayed for 30 days pending an appeal by California Attorney General Rob Bonta to the Ninth Circuit.
We applaud California Attorney General Rob Bonta for appealing Judge Benitez’s ruling in Miller v. Bonta. The rulings by Judge Benitez demonstrate the need to go much farther, though, and overturn the Supreme Court’s rogue 2008 Heller decision. As long as Heller stands, the gun lobby will continue to go “judge shopping” and find judges like Roger Benitez who will expand the fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment that was endorsed by the narrow five member majority of the Supreme Court in Heller.
Americans Against Gun Violence is the only national gun violence prevention organization in the United States that openly advocates overturning the 2008 Heller decision and the only gun violence prevention organization that has filed amicus briefs in Second Amendment cases before the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals calling on the Supreme Court to overturn the Heller decision and on the Ninth Circuit to interpret the Heller decision as narrowly as possible until it is overturned.