California has effectively repealed the Second Amendment inside its borders
Golden State gun owners may soon be an endangered species, and no one is talking about why.
Two new federal court decisions highlight a harsh new reality: California has effectively repealed the Second Amendment inside its borders.
In the first case, decided yesterday, a district judge ruled against the National Rifle Association’s state affiliate in a challenge to onerous new California rules targeting popular semi-automatic rifles. That 2016 law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), is called the Assault Weapons Control Act.
“Even an outright ban on certain types of semiautomatic weapons does not substantially burden the Second Amendment right,” wrote Judge Josephine Staton, a Barack Obama appointee in Santa Ana, California. Staton suggested that if semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 were outlawed, California gun owners “would be left with myriad options for self-defense—including the handgun, the ‘quintessential’ self-defense weapon per Heller.” (Heller, is, of course, a reference to the Supreme Court’s D.C. v. Heller case, which dealt with handguns.)
The second unsuccessful Second Amendment case, also brought by the NRA’s state affiliate, sought to protect Californians’ rights to carry firearms for self-defense. A federal judge in Los Angeles tossed it on Monday, saying the California legislature “reasonably saw a link between restrictions” on carrying firearms and public safety.
In theory, after the Supreme Court’s Heller decision in 2008, the Second Amendment was supposed to mean something—it was supposed to protect a core fundamental right as important as the freedom to speak or to worship. Just as the First Amendment was the uniform law of the land across the nation, the theory went, the Second Amendment would be as well.
But, alas, that was not political reality. California judges, especially in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, have creatively interpreted the Heller decision into a constitutional near-nullity. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld those decisions. And the U.S. Supreme Court, has abdicated its responsibility by letting lower courts get away with it.
“If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I have little doubt that this Court would intervene,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissent from his colleagues’ decision not to hear the Silvester v. Harris case after the 9th Circuit upheld another California anti-gun measure. “But as evidenced by our continued inaction in this area, the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this Court… The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this Court’s constitutional orphan.” (Justice Neil Gorsuch joined Thomas in a separate dissent last year that made a similar point.)
In the lawsuit decided yesterday, Rupp v. Becerra, the California Rifle and Pistol Association asked the court to rule that the 2016 Assault Weapons Control Act was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment and the Constitution’s due process and takings clauses. The California law makes it a crime to manufacture, sell, import or transfer hundreds of popular semi-automatic firearms with a pistol grip or adjustable telescoping stock—and the ban on transfers includes gifts between parents, grandparents, and children.