Missed by many, yesterday witnessed a major victory for the Second Amendment and beat-down of majority (mob) rule. Judge Roger T. Benitez, District Court, Southern District of California (9th Circuit), signed an injunction against and scathing rebuke of California’s attempt to restrict ammunition sales—one of the most profound and well-written defenses of the Second Amendment by the courts that I’ve read in years.
Judge Benitez’s “Order Granting 32 Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction” (signed 4/23/20) in Rhode v. Becerra (Docket Number: 3:18-cv-00802-BEN-JLB) requires the State of California to immediately cease and desist from enforcing unconstitutional measures introduced via Proposition 63.
The State had attempted to “extend the idea of firearm background checks to ammunition purchases,” as well as prohibit all out-of-state ammo purchases.
This unconstitutional action was the result of a ballot initiative known as Proposition 63 (the “Safety for All Act of 2016”). Prop 63 amended California’s Penal Code to regulate the purchase of all firearm ammunition–requiring an absurd and complex process to purchase ammo and restricting out-of-state purchases.
While it is only a temporary injunction and the case will still need to proceed to full trial, it is nonetheless a huge win for the Second Amendment and loss for both the “state” and the “majority” who voted to trample the constitutionally-enshrined right of the minority—the very purpose of our Bill of Rights.
I realize, this post is rather lengthy. However, I feel experiencing the full weight of what the court stated is very important in this case.
What follows are some highlights from the 120-page court findings and ruling. I’ve tried to select some of the best parts; however, I encourage you to read the full court document—there is so much more valuable content then I could highlight here.
In his introduction, Judge Benitez summarized the courts findings:
The finding correctly noted that such measures “unduly and severely burden the Second Amendment rights of every responsible, gun-owning citizen,” while ignoring the fact that unlawful elements of society avoid these measures entirely—by obtaining firearms and ammunition unlawfully through underground sources.
Furthermore, he sharply criticized the state’s view (and that of the “majority” of voters) that the Second Amendment is nothing but a pesky “loophole” that must be closed.
The state argued that such measures were an attempt to limit purchase by non-citizens. However, the court wholly rejected that argument.
In fact, the judge also aptly noted that this “motive” was strikingly inconsistent and ironic given that California is a declared “sanctuary” state.
He continued by arguing that the risk posed by this unlawful element was minuscule in comparison to the “very large number of law-abiding citizens holding Second Amendment rights [that] have been heavily burdened.”
Judge Benitez strongly re-emphasized that (1) our Bill of Rights was intended to prevent this very action (viz., to protect critical civil liberties behind a shield and “beyond the reach of majoritarian rule”) and (2) that we the people have a “constitutional right to keep and bear firearms and the ammunition which makes a firearm useful.”
Continuing its scathing slap-down of California, the court appropriately noted that this action was just another incremental step in an ever increasing and highly-burdening “web of restrictions on the rights of law-abiding responsible gun owners”—listing a litany of other actions taken to close those pesky Second Amendment “loopholes.”
The court correctly stated (with a tremendous amount of tone and hostility) the two central questions posed by this case:
And then it answered those two critical questions loud, clear, and for all to hear:
But the court wasn’t finished… Judge Benitez sarcastically continued with his dissection and utter decimation of the State’s case:
The court asserts in the strongest of language that California’s Proposition 63 “places a severe restriction on the core right of self-defense” and “amounts to a destruction of the Second Amendment”—deeming it “unconstitutional under any level of scrutiny.”
As someone who has read and studied a LOT of case law—that is an extremely strong statement by court standards!
The court also re-emphasized that it is not legally-abiding gun owners that “carry the burden of proving that they are entitled to enjoy Second Amendment rights,” rather, it is the state’s burden to “demonstrate that the restriction… is a reasonable fit for the asserted substantial interest.”
It pleases me to no end to see the court so clearly recognize this fundamental truth. I get so tired of watching gun owners have to go to every length imaginable to actually have to defend why they are entitled to Second Amendment rights! It shouldn’t be that way.
The court then once again asserted that ballot initiatives are not above the law, nor should receive any legislative deference. To the contrary, the judge aptly argued that “A ballot proposition is precisely what the Bill of Rights was intended to protect us from—a majority trampling upon important individual rights.”
In the harshest of tones, the court then further shreds this “ballot initiative” argument—correctly noting in no uncertain terms that this case is first and foremost a test of whether “a state can impinge on [a muscular constitutional right] based upon a popular vote and unconvincing research.”
The court rules absolutely not—the “government is not free to impose its own pure policy choices on American citizens where Constitutional rights are concerned.”
In one of the most striking statements in the court’s response, the judge advances the fact that the public threat lays entirely with guns in the hands of “criminals, tyrants and terrorists”—not with “guns in the hands of law-abiding responsible citizens.”
To the contrary, it strongly recognizes that guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens is the antidote. It refers to this as the “only one policy enshrined in the Bill of Rights” and asserts that “no legislature or popular vote has the constitutional authority to dictate to a citizen” anything to the contrary—including restricting their access to ammunition.
It doesn’t get more clear or stronger than that!
In an equally striking statement by the court, the judge concludes by asserting that “the Constitution remains a shield from the tyranny of the majority,” adding:
“Law-abiding citizens are imbued with the unalienable right to keep and bear firearms along with the ammunition to make their firearms work. That a majority today may wish it were otherwise, does not change the Constitutional right. It never has.”
It was interesting that Judge Benitez specifically recognized the current Covid-19 pandemic and referred to it as a perfect example of why Second Amendment rights are so necessary and precious.
If you missed that, re-read the second half (starting at line 6).
And with that, California and its Proposition 63 were taken behind the woodshed by the US 9th Circuit Courts (one of—if not the most—liberal circuits in America I might add) and beaten mercilessly.
Now, this is just a temporary action—but the breadth and scope of Judge Benitez’ findings, arguments and conclusions will be hard for the courts to turnaround when this case is finally heard.
And if nothing else, someone in the judicial branch has finally—and convincingly—defended the Second Amendment and the rights of law-abiding gun owners everywhere…