February 25, 2024
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U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez has issued an injunction against enforcement of California’s ammunition sales background check law.

U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez has once again made headlines in California by permanently enjoining the State of California’s enforcement of the state’s ammunition sales background check provisions found in state Penal Code, handing another victory to Second Amendment advocates.

The case is known as Rhode v. Bonta (originally filed in 2018 as Rhode v. Becerra). Plaintiffs in the case are the California Rifle & Pistol Association, several firearms retailers, and seven private citizens, including Olympic Gold Medalist Kim Rhode, for whom the case is named.

In a statement, CRPA President and General Counsel Chuck Michel noted, “Today’s ruling represents continued affirmation that the Bruen decision, and Heller before that, 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.”

Judge Benitez, who has become famous for his pro-rights rulings regarding Second Amendment issues, said in his 32-page decision, “The ammunition background checks laws have no historical pedigree and operate in such a way that they violate the Second Amendment right of citizens to keep and bear arms. The anti-importation components violate the dormant Commerce Clause and to the extent applicable to individuals travelling into California are preempted by 18 U.S.C. § 926A.”

According to Michel’s statement, which Ammoland News received via email, the case has “worked its way up and down the court system for eight years.” When the Supreme Court issued its Bruen ruling in June 2022, the Rhode case, along with another California gun law challenge known as Duncan v. Bonta, were remanded back to the lower courts “for supplemental briefing.”

Rhode issued a statement, which was included in Michel’s alert to CRPA members and supporters.

“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. “I’m happy that the courts agreed with me. Many generations of hunters, outdoorsmen and Olympians will be able to train and pass on the shooting heritage for many generations. I will never stop fighting for the 2nd Amendment and what I believe to be right, and the court’s ruling supports that.”

The CRPA bulletin also quoted attorney Sean Brady at Michel & Associates, who was lead counsel in the case. He called the state’s background check system “so egregious and over the top that Judge Benitez never faltered in his determinations from his earlier rulings which gave gun owners a win.”

“Today’s ruling reiterates that California’s restrictions on ammunition purchasing are unconstitutional under yet another ruling in our favor and one that is in line with the Supreme Court opinion in Bruen,” Brady stated.

California, which has been controlled by a Democrat majority in the legislature for several years, is one of the most restrictive states in the nation concerning gun control laws. Gun rights organizations including CRPA, the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, National Rifle Association and others have several pending challenges to the state’s gun laws.

Judge Benitez has struck down the state ban on so-called “assault weapons” and “large-capacity magazines,” for which he has been angrily criticized by Gov. Newsom.

In his Rhode decision, Judge Benitez observed, “The state’s ammunition background check regime…treats all citizens as if they do not enjoy a right to buy ammunition. It forces Americans to entreat and supplicate the state for permission. Only when the State is satisfied that a citizen has proven that they meet the qualifications – only then – does the state issue its stamp of authorization. See Cal. Penal Code § 30352(d) (“[T]he ammunition vendor shall verify with the department, in a manner prescribed by the department, that the person is authorized to purchase ammunition.”). This is not the language of a right; this is the language of a government license or grant of a privilege.”

The judge ordered California Attorney General Rob Bonta to “provide forthwith, by personal service or otherwise, actual notice of this order to all law enforcement personnel who are responsible for implementing or enforcing the enjoined statutes.”

Even CRPA’s Michel leaves little doubt the state will appeal the Benitez ruling, as it has in various other cases decided at the District Court level by him. But in the meantime, it is a victory striking down another of the Golden State’s gun laws, which have been described as “extremist” by Second Amendment advocates in and outside of the state.

About Dave Workman

Dave Workman is a senior editor at TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms, and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.

Dave Workman

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