In a recent ruling, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, appointed by President George W. Bush, declared California’s law mandating background checks for ammunition purchases unconstitutional. He criticized the law for lacking historical precedent and infringing on Second Amendment rights. Judge Benitez highlighted the high rejection rate of law-abiding gun owners under this system, noting a 16% rejection rate in 2019 and 11% more recently, attributing these to system errors and mismatches in personal identifiers.
The decision, which issued a permanent injunction against enforcing the law, is set to be appealed by the state to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta and Governor Gavin Newsom, both Democrats, criticized the ruling. Bonta emphasized the life-saving impact of background checks, while Newsom accused Benitez of favoring gun lobby interests.
The law, approved by voters in 2016 and amended in 2019, faced challenges led by Olympic shooter Kim Rhode and the California Rifle & Pistol Association. Association President Chuck Michel called the ruling a significant victory, arguing that the law’s true intent was to restrict access to ammunition.
Benitez rejected California’s defense of the law, which cited historical laws restricting ammunition purchases by certain groups. He deemed these examples as rooted in prejudice and not applicable to current constitutional protections. His decision was influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling emphasizing historical consistency in firearm regulation. The case, titled “Rhode et al. v. Bonta,” now progresses to the appellate court.
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