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Federal judge lifts California’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons

A federal judge in California on Friday lifted the state’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons, which he called a “failed experiment,” which led to a sharp retort from the state governor.

California banned the sale of assault weapons in 1989. The bill was challenged in 2019 in a lawsuit against the state’s attorney general, including California-based James Miller and the San Diego County Gun Owners, a political action committee.

Judge Roger T. Benitez of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California wrote that sections of the state’s penal code that define and restrict their use are “hereby made unconstitutional and prohibited.”

But the judge said he granted a 30-day suspension of sentence at the request of Attorney General Rob Bonta, a move that would allow Mr Bonta to appeal.

Judge Benitez wrote that the case was about “what a muscular constitutional law should be and whether a state can force a choice of weapons policy that undermines that right with a 30-year-old failed experiment”.

“It should be a simple question and answer,” continued Judge Benitez, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush. “The government is not free to impose its own new political choices on American citizens when it comes to constitutional rights.”

In a statement late Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom called the decision “a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians.”

“We are not backing down from this fight,” added Mr. Newsom, “and we will continue to push for sensible gun laws that will save lives.”

Michael Levenson Reporting contributed.

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