Is California Set for a Second Amendment “Reckoning”?

posted on May 31, 2023
scales of justice
DNY59/iStock; flag inset: LordRunar/iStock

Law-abiding Californians might someday in the near future be able to purchase the same handguns that Americans in the vast majority of freer states are able to purchase, thanks to a March court ruling; in fact, the next few months could see several punitive anti-gun laws overturned in the Golden State, giving law-abiding citizens back some of the freedoms they haven’t enjoyed in decades.

California’s so-called “Unsafe Handgun” law has been plaguing law-abiding citizens since 2001, with the number of “approved” handguns dropping dramatically over the past several years. An addition to the law in 2013 requiring microstamping technology, which was not feasible then and is still not feasible today, made the law even more onerous—no new handgun models have been added to the “approved” list since then.

In mid-March, however, the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Southern Division, granted a preliminary injunction in the case Boland v. Bonta, blocking enforcement of the punitive law. Since then, the state has appealed the ruling.

“The Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense,” wrote Federal District Judge Cormac J. Carney. “That right is so fundamental that to regulate conduct covered by the Second Amendment’s plain text, the government must show more than that the regulation promotes an important interest like reducing accidental discharges or solving crime. Rather, to be constitutional, regulations of Second Amendment rights must be ‘consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.’”

In making the determination, the court ruled that the California Department of Justice’s argument on why the law is constitutional was a weak one.

“Because enforcing those requirements implicates the plain text of the Second Amendment, and the government fails to point to any well-established historical analogues that are consistent with them, those requirements are unconstitutional and their enforcement must be preliminarily enjoined,” wrote Judge Carney.

The NRA-backed-and-funded Bruen decision created a U.S. Supreme Court precedent that is now presenting more positive possibilities to America’s many lawful gun owners.

Daniel S. Reid, western regional director for NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, called the ruling a “big deal” and said the impact from last year’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen U.S. Supreme Court ruling should continue to make it possible to challenge onerous gun-control laws in California and other restricted states.

“This is exactly the type of ruling that we expect to see as a result of the Bruen decision,” said Reid. “The myriad of gun-control laws that have been on the books for years in states like California are now getting the appropriate level of scrutiny and are failing.

“There are a whole host of lawsuits that are in the pipeline in various states—especially New York, New Jersey and California—that are now being looked at with this text, history and tradition type test. States can no longer rest on the abstract balancing test where they could often defer to general ‘public safety’ as their justification for the various restrictions.”

Reid pointed out, however, that the ruling didn’t apply to all of the restrictions on this freedom being challenged. The court ruling struck down three of the requirements—the microstamping scheme and the provisions requiring a "chamber-load" indicator and a magazine disconnect. Interestingly, the state’s appeal only challenged the ruling of the chamber-load indicator and magazine disconnect, leaving the microstamping portion of the roster—which has caused no new handgun to be added in a decade—basically dead.

Attorney Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association (CRPA), which is a plaintiff in the case, considers the decision to be a major win for Californians, who have long endured restrictive gun laws.

“It’s a huge win for consumers, because they can now select the gun that’s right for them,” said Michel in an exclusive interview with America’s 1st Freedom. “And it’s a huge win for manufacturers because they’ll be able to put so many more guns on the market, and California’s like the biggest market in the country.

Michel and other pro-freedom advocates in California see this victory as the first in what could be a complete rewriting of a number of anti-gun laws in the Golden State by courts over the next several months.

“You cannot overstate the value of this case and this decision,” said Michel. “It’s a huge, huge win, a ‘Second Amendment reckoning,’ where all the stuff we’ve been forced to endure for decades is finally seeing its day in court. And the state is losing.”

This is all happening thanks to the NRA-backed Bruen decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. The new standard of review set in the Bruen decision is forcing judges to consider restrictions on this right historically.

The Bruen case dealt with public carry, but it also set a new standard for testing whether or not a law is constitutional. Now, some courts are honestly accepting, adopting and applying the Bruen standard, while some other courts are trying to find ways around the important ruling. 

As this was being written, next up in California, as part of a possible “Second Amendment reckoning,” were the announcement of court decisions on four other important Second Amendment lawsuits—one concerning the state’s semi-automatic ban, one on ammunition magazine limits, one on requiring background checks for ammunition purposes and the last dealing with possession of billy clubs. All are under consideration by Judge Roger Benitez, who is widely hated by gun-control proponents because of a number of past Second Amendment rulings.

“We anticipate the California attorney general will appeal any pro-Second Amendment rulings and, depending on the ruling from a three-judge panel, it could definitely be heard en banc [a special procedure where all judges of a particular court hear a case], as that seems to be the trend for gun cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,” said Reid.

An en banc ruling could overturn or support a pro-freedom ruling. It would then be up to the losing party in such a case to decide if they want to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Clearly, the NRA-backed-and-funded Bruen decision created a U.S. Supreme Court precedent that is now presenting more positive possibilities to America’s many lawful gun owners.


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