Rifles for sale at the Poway Weapons & Gear Range. Image from company video

A San Diego federal court judge Friday overturned California’s three-decade ban on assault weapons, prompting swift criticism from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez ruled that “the state’s definition of illegal military-style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons commonly allowed in most other states.”

In a 94-page ruling, Benitez, an appointee of then-President George W. Bush, wrote:

“Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller and United States v. Miller. Yet, the state of California makes it a crime to have an AR-15-type rifle. Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.”

Benitez issued a 30-day stay of his order, keeping the law in effect, to give state Attorney General Rob Bonta the opportunity to appeal.

Firearms Policy Coalition President Brandon Combs praised the decision as an “historic victory.”

“In his order today, Judge Benitez held what millions of Americans already know to be true: Bans on so-called ‘assault weapons’ are unconstitutional and cannot stand,” Combs said. “This historic victory for individual liberty is just the beginning, and FPC will continue to aggressively challenge these laws throughout the United States. We look forward to continuing this challenge at the Ninth Circuit and, should it be necessary, the Supreme Court.”

Bonta called the decision “fundamentally flawed” and said he would file an appeal in the Miller vs. Bonta case.

“There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with Swiss Army knives – especially on Gun Violence Awareness Day and after the recent shootings in our own California communities,” Bonta said.

“We need to take action to end gun violence now. We will fight this ruling and continue to advocate for and defend common-sense gun laws that will save lives.”

Newsom called the decision “a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period.

“As the son of a judge, I grew up with deep respect for the judicial process and the importance of a judge’s ability to make impartial fact-based rulings, but the fact that this judge compared the AR-15 – a weapon of war that’s used on the battlefield – to a Swiss Army knife completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who’ve lost loved ones to this weapon.”

He concluded, “We’re not backing down from this fight, and we’ll continue pushing for common-sense gun laws that will save lives.”

California first restricted assault weapons in 1989, the Associated Press reported, and has amended the law several times since.

– From staff and wire reports

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