California cannot enforce a law requiring people to undergo background checks to buy ammunition because it violates the constitutional right to bear arms, a federal judge has ruled.
In a ruling made public Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego said background checks have “no historical pedigree,” and violated the Second Amendment by denying all citizens a right to purchase ammunition. Has gone.
Republican President George W. Benitez, a Bush appointee, wrote, “Whenever a citizen needs to purchase ammunition, extensive background check requirements are imposed that our forefathers would never have accepted for the citizen.”
Benitez also faulted California’s handling of the more than 1 million background checks conducted annually for ammunition, calling the 11% rejection rate “very high.”
The offices of California Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta, both Democrats who have supported background checks, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Plaintiffs in the case included Kim Rohde, who has won three Olympic gold medals in shooting events, and the California Rifle & Pistol Association.
The group’s president and general counsel, Chuck Mitchell, called the decision a “huge victory” and said California “has prevented too many eligible people from getting the ammunition they need, which is the real political intent behind most of these laws.” ”
California voters approved a ballot measure in 2016 that would require gun owners to undergo an initial background check to purchase ammunition and pay $50 for a four-year ammunition permit.
Legislators amended the measure to require background checks for every ammunition purchase starting in 2019.
No historical analogue
Benitez dismissed California’s reliance on dozens of laws dating back to 1789 as “historical analogs” for ammunition testing, including bans on the possession of ammunition by enslaved people, Indians, and others.
The judge said it makes no sense to argue that “these disgusting historical examples of prejudice and bigotry” against people who did not enjoy constitutional rights justify similar restrictions now against people who do enjoy those rights. take pleasure.
Federal courts have issued separate Second Amendment decisions since a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision that expanded the right of people to arm themselves in public.
The court said that judges should not use the usual method of assessing the constitutionality of laws when assessing firearm restrictions, and should instead look at whether they are “consistent with this country’s historic tradition of firearms regulation.”
Benitez has criticized Newsom for several decisions favoring firearms owners, including a September 2023 ruling that California’s ban on high-capacity gun magazines was unconstitutional.
The judge blocked California’s background check requirement in April 2020. A federal appeals court had asked him to reconsider that decision in light of a 2022 Supreme Court decision.
Benítez stopped short of supporting a four-year ammunition permit, but said it would be “a more appropriate constitutional approach than the current plan.”
The case is Rhode et al v. Bonta US District Court, Southern District of California, No. 18-00802.