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Assault weapons ban

Students, families, and supporters of "March For Our Lives" took to the streets of New York City on March 24, 2018. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Disgusting': Comparing AR-15s to Swiss Army Knives, Federal Judge Overturns California's Assault Weapons Ban

"People are going to die because of this ruling," warned the father of a gun violence victim.

Jake Johnson

Gun safety advocates, relatives of gun violence victims, and members of Congress reacted with outrage to a federal judge's decision late Friday to overturn California's decades-old ban on assault weapons with a ruling that likened an AR-15 to a Swiss Army Knife.

"Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment," wrote U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of the Southern District of California, an appointee of former President George W. Bush. The ruling was handed down on Gun Violence Awareness Day.

First implemented in 1989, the California assault weapons ban will remain in effect for 30 days pending an appeal. In a statement, California Attorney General Rob Bonta vowed to challenge Benitez's ruling, which asserts that sections of the ban violate the Second Amendment.

"Today's decision is fundamentally flawed, and we will be appealing it," said Bonta. "There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with Swiss Army Knives—especially on Gun Violence Awareness Day and after the recent shootings in our own California communities. We need to take action to end gun violence now. We will fight this ruling and continue to advocate for and defend common sense gun laws that will save lives."

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also slammed the ruling, calling it "a disgusting slap in the face to those who have lost loved ones to gun violence."

"This is a direct threat to public safety and innocent Californians," said Newsom. "We won't stand for it."

As the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday, California "is also appealing two other rulings by Benitez: one from 2017 that overturns a ban on buying and selling magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, and another from last April that blocks a 2019 law requiring background checks to buy ammunition."

If upheld, Benitez's latest decision could have a significant impact in the nation's most populous state, where just days ago a gunman killed nine people at a rail yard in San Jose.

Fred Guttenberg, the father of one of the students killed in a 2018 mass shooting at Florida's Stoneman Douglas High School, warned in a CNN interview that "people are going to die because of this ruling."

"I am upset for the loss of my daughter and for all the other victims," Guttenberg added. "But I am fearful because I know that there is someone out there right now who will go out and buy an AR-15 because of this judge."

Benitez's ruling, particularly its comparison of AR-15s to Swiss Army Knives, also drew condemnation from lawmakers at the national level.

In a tweet on Saturday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote: "No, Judge Benitez. AR-15 rifles are not equivalent to a Swiss Army knife."

"They are military-style weapons that can, and have, killed dozens of people in a few minutes," Sanders added. "The American people want common sense gun safety legislation. This decision should be appealed and overturned."

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