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Federal Judge Overturns California's Assault Weapons Ban

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — California's three-decade-old ban on assault weapons has been declared unconstitutional.

Judge Roger Benitez, a San Diego federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush, Friday overturned the ban, stating that it violated the right to bear arms.

Saturday, there was a long line get into the Crossroads of the West gun show in Costa Mesa as hundreds showed up looking for weapons and ammunition.

"This is amazing," said David Vargas, a gun owner, of the ruling. "It's great news!"

Assault Weapons Ruling
Crowds gathered at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show in Costa Mesa

The assault weapons ban was passed in 1989 and has since been updated a number of times.

"It's nothing that's that's exotic. It's nothing that is unusual. These are normal, commonly owned, semi-automatic rifles that people use for sport, hunting and especially for self-defense," Michael Schwartz, director of the San Diego Gun Owners PAC told CBSLA.

The main issue appeared to be the state's definition of an assault weapon. California's attorney general argued that assault weapons were more dangerous and were used in more crimes and mass shootings.

But the judge disagreed, stating in his ruling that the guns were overwhelmingly owned for legal purposes. And, he said, the definition unlawfully deprived law-abiding citizens from owning firearms that are legal in most other states.

"This is happening now because there was a challenge to California's 30-year-old assault weapons ban, and we have tinkered with this, but when a judge faces a challenge then you have to rule on that challenge," Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said. "And this is a judge, who very recently, has ruled to overturn California's ban on large-capacity magazines."

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement that said, in part:

"Today's decision is 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. We're not backing down from this fight, and we'll continue pushing for common sense gun laws that will save lives."

Kris Brown, president of the nonprofit Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence expressed her dismay at Judge Benitez's decision.

"I'm incredulous and I think this judge doesn't deserve to be on the bench. It's a gross mischaracterization of facts from what I've read and I find it deeply...honestly, humiliating. it makes me ashamed to be an American."

The judge issued a stay of this order, meaning that the assault weapons ban remains in effect for the time being.

The case will now go to a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and could be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

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