Gun-control groups are crying foul as a judge in California is set to rule on the state’s “assault weapon” ban after already ruling against the state’s magazine ban and its background check requirement to purchase ammunition.
Judge Roger T. Benitez of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California began hearings today for a case challenging California’s ban on so-called “assault weapons.” Benitez has issued pro-gun rulings in two cases in the last two years, and he’s set to rule on another case involving batons, billy clubs, and blackjacks.
Gun-control groups have taken to the media to decry Benitez’s history of pro-gun rulings.
“They struck gold with this one judge,” Ari Freilich, state policy director for the Giffords Law Center, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Freilich takes issue with a legal term known as the “related-case rule,” which allows judges to take similar cases to those on which they’ve ruled before. This rule governs courts throughout the country, but the gun-control advocate argues that San Diego’s court doesn’t allow anyone to challenge which judge will hear a particular case.
“The purpose of the rule is for judges engaged in complex cases really drilling into the issues, and not having to reinvent the wheel on a really similar case,” Freilich said. “This has been taken to an illogical extreme now when one judge is ruling on everything touching upon gun violence in the state of California.”
Everytown’s Eric Tirschwell also complained to the Union-Tribune about Benitez’s rulings.
“(Benitez) reads the Second Amendment more broadly than just about any other court in the country,” Tirschwell said. “And he regularly adopts the language and tone of the gun lobby. His decision on Second Amendment issues often read more like what an advocate would write and not what would you expect from a neutral dispassionate judge.”
President of the California Rifle & Pistol Association C.D. Michel dismissed the gun-ban lobby’s claims as nothing more than sour grapes.
“Gun ban advocacy groups and the billionaires who support them prefer biased judges who will bend over backwards intellectually to twist those rulings to uphold any gun ban law no matter how useless or extreme,” Michel responded in the Union-Tribune.
He also pointed out that pro-gun groups have cases in a variety of jurisdictions all across the country.
Benitez’s ruling could have both short and long-term implications. Magazines flooded California in the hours following his previous ruling against the state’s mag ban – until the state appealed and an injunction was granted. A ruling against the state’s web of regulations banning “assault weapons” could have a similar effect.
In addition, Benitez’s pro-gun rulings provide an important counterpoint to anti-gun rulings from other federal courts and could play an important role in the gun cases that many experts believe will be coming up before the Supreme Court.