A Southern California federal judge with a history of pro-gun rulings issued another such decision this week, preventing the state’s ammunition background check from being enforced.
Judge Roger Benitez of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California ruled on a California law that went into effect in 2019 requiring a background check on every purchase of ammunition.
In his ruling, Benitez wrote that while a person may choose to submit to a credit check in order to buy an automobile, “he is not required to pass the same credit check every time he needs to refill his car with gas or recharge his battery at a charging station.”
And, Benitez said, “the Constitution does not mention a right to own automobiles (or carriages or horses).”
Gun owners, the judge wrote, undergo more than 1 million background checks a year just to buy ammunition, and they are barred from buying ammunition from out of state, such as in Arizona or Nevada where gun laws are more relaxed.
”Though they are citizens entitled to enjoy all of the constitutional rights, Californians are denied the Second Amendment right to buy ammunition for self-defense at least 11% of the time because of problems with the background check system,” the judge wrote.
In his conclusion, Benitez wrote that the ammunition background check laws “have no historical pedigree” and violate the Second Amendment, as well as the dormant Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
“Perhaps the simpler, 4-year and $50 ammunition purchase permit approved by the voters in Proposition 63, would have fared better,” he wrote.
The judge’s decision is the latest ruling in an eight-year-old legal battle between California Olympic gold medal shooter Kim Rhode and the state, stemming from the passage of Proposition 63 in 2016 that required background checks for purchases.
Benitez previously struck down the requirement in 2020, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on that ruling.
After the U.S. Supreme Court issued it’s ruling in the 2022 case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, which established a new model for reviewing Second Amendment challenges, the 9th Circuit kicked the case back down to Benitez for further consideration.
“Like I initially stated to Gavin Newsom, ‘always happy to teach you about the guns and ammo you don’t trust me to own,’” Rhode said in a statement provided by the California Rifle and Pistol Association, which challenged the law on Rhode’s behalf.
CRPA President and General Counsel Chuck Michel said in a statement that the ruling continues to affirm U.S. Supreme Court rulings and “represent a sea change in the way courts must look at these absurdly restrictive laws.”
“Sure, the state will appeal, but the clock is ticking on laws that violate the Constitution,” he added.
In a statement on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said his office would seek an immediate stay on Benitez’s ruling.
“Background checks save lives. We’ll continue to fight to keep Californians safe and ensure these vital protections remain in place,” Bonta wrote.
Newsom’s office did not respond to The Bee’s request for comment by deadline.
However, Newsom has strongly criticized Benitez in the past, calling him a “stone cold ideologue” who is “wholly owned by the National Rifle Association.”
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