“We cannot be and we are not deterred by this ruling,” he said.
Bonta said his office will ask the appeals court to stay the district court’s ruling, which would extend the 30-day stay and leave the laws in place during the appeals process.
In his ruling, Benitez likened the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife, arguing that both are a “perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.” His comparison drew criticism from California Democrats and gun safety activists, while gun rights advocates celebrated the ruling.
“It is insulting to read his decision where he called the kind of weapon that killed my son akin to a pocket knife,” said Mattie Scott, who heads the Brady Center’s California chapter and lost her son to gun violence in 1996. “Pocket knives were not invented to kill as many people as possible. Pocket knives don’t tear families apart.”
Robyn Thomas, the executive director of the Giffords Law Center, said they expect the Ninth Circuit to reverse Benitez’s decision, but also anticipate gun lobbyists will keep trying to get similar cases before Benitez to move them up through the federal system.
The judge’s ruling came in Miller v Bonta, a 2019 lawsuit from California residents, San Diego County Gun Owners PAC and other gun rights advocacy groups.
The Firearms Policy Coalition, which brought the case to court, said in a statement Thursday that it will “aggressively litigate this case on appeal and will take every action to defend the Court’s legally- and historically-correct decision up to and at the U.S. Supreme Court.” The organization also condemned Newsom’s comments on Benitez as “outrageous and callous personal attacks.”
Six other states and Washington, DC, have bans on certain semiautomatic firearms.
This story has been updated with additional reaction and background information.
CNN’s Alexandra Meeks, Josh Campbell and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.