War on California Gun Laws Revs Up

Jessica Nguyen, a neighbour of Richard and Miranda Wallingford in Huntington Beach, California, has had a strained relationship with the couple for years.

Records show Nguyen objected to the Wallingfords’ decades-old tree in their yard. That’s what they refused to do. Duelling harassment claims were filed in an Orange County court following a dispute between two neighbours. In 2019, restraining orders were given to both parties, compelling them to keep away from each other and to relinquish any firearms they held, as required by California state law.

the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from both the Wallingford’s and California on Friday. Restraining order statutes in some states have been found to violate a couple’s right to bear guns under the 2nd Amendment.

A counsel for the Wallingford’s claimed that the lower district judge made a mistake by dismissing the family’s legal action based on the statute. Using a landmark pro-gun rights decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last month, he requested the three-judge appeals court to reverse the judgement and enable his clients’ initial case to be amended.

As the Supreme Court ruled in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, a case in which the court ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects citizens’ right to bear arms, it also ruled that other restrictions on firearms that aren’t rooted in early American history — or at least analogous to some historical rule—would also be unconstitutional.

For his clients, Frank said he was pleased with the Bruen judgement, which supported their claim that the California restraining order law is unconstitutional.

To challenge a gun regulation as unconstitutional, “there’s never been a better time” than now, he said.

He’s not the only one who thinks this way.

After the Bruen ruling was handed down, lower courts were obliged to reexamine a slew of legal claims against California’s gun restrictions, possibly raising the stakes in a country where gun murder is rife daily.

Some of the most significant limitations on firearms in the country, including the state’s bans on military-style weapons, large-capacity magazines, and anyone under the age of 21 owning semiautomatic rifles, are now under review. In the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns, local gun dealers and ranges have also come under scrutiny.

It’s hardly surprising that there has been a flurry of legal action in the wake of Bruen, according to legal experts. New York’s gun control law was overturned, but Justice Clarence Thomas, writing the opinion of the court’s conservative majority, also rejected a large body of legal precedent — really an entire pillar of judicial analysis in 2nd Amendment law — that traditionally more liberal courts like the 9th Circuit have used to uphold gun laws for years, according to experts.

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According to Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor who specialises in 2nd Amendment law, “That was one of the intentions of the justices in the majority: to shake up 2nd Amendment law and lead to the reconsideration of statutes that had previously been affirmed.”

UCLA professor Eugene Volokh, who studies the Second Amendment, said the Bruen decision was most significant because it eliminated a long-standing “balancing test” that courts have used to evaluate gun laws for years: whether a law’s burden on law-abiding gun owners is outweighed by the public interest.

“That test is no longer part of the argument,” Volokh stated.

About the “history and tradition test,” Winkler argued that Bruen rejects such an examination in favour of one that looks at the origins of a gun restriction and whether it is analogous to an earlier version of a gun restriction, such as the prohibition of guns in “sensitive” places like courthouses or the possession of guns by criminals.

That’s a considerably more difficult criterion to achieve in many circumstances. However, despite the destructive impact of modern high-powered weaponry on California, legislation addressing previous dangers of a similar magnitude is difficult to track down.

The decision was a slap in the face to Californians who have long held that their state was a bastion of liberalism that was somehow protected from the conservative Supreme Court’s rulings.

Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta have both stated that they are actively trying to better understand the ramifications of Bruen’s decision for California and to take steps to mitigate any consequences. Despite the Bruen judgement, state legislators have already enacted new regulations that they claim do not violate the state’s gun control laws.

The consequences of Bruen in California — and the potential overturning of state legislation — will take time to play out due to the nature of court procedures and the complexity of the federal court appeals process.

However, there are already initiatives underway to repeal California’s gun regulations based on Bruen. Every high-profile California gun case currently before the 9th Circuit has referenced the June 23 ruling.

As a result of Bruen, several circuit judges have sent cases back to the lower district courts for a fresh look. Several plaintiffs have argued about the significance of the case of Bruen, or are expected to do so shortly.

9th Circuit judges overturned an earlier judgement that had sustained the state’s longstanding ban on military-style assault weapons on June 28. Rupp vs. Bonta was remanded to the lower court for further consideration in light of Bruen by the panel.

Experts say that Bruen will make it easier for the plaintiffs to demonstrate that the restriction is illegal, and hence more probable that the ban will be overturned.

Appellate judges Andrew D. Hurwitz, an Obama appointee, and Daniel A. Bress, a Trump appointee, voted in favour of returning the case to lower courts. A second Trump appointee, Judge Patrick J. Bumatay, dissenting, argued that a dismissal of the case “may just prolong the inevitable” by allowing it to be appealed once more.

It has been a decade since our Supreme Court erroneously weighed the interests of the 2nd Amendment. Bumatay stated, “The Supreme Court has had enough of it.”. In light of the legal standard in place, we should have ordered additional briefing to move this matter forward. As a result, we automatically return the case to the local courthouse.

It wasn’t until the next day that the case against Ventura’s gun shops, ammunition stores and firing ranges being closed because of COVID-19 was sent back to the district court for further consideration under Bruen by another 9th Circuit panel. Another Los Angeles County lawsuit challenging similar closures has been remanded to a lower court.

Martin B. Retting Gun Shop in Culver City has a long queue of customers waiting outside the door and around the block.

Duncan vs. Bonta, in which the 9th Circuit affirmed California law barring the possession of magazines able to carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition, may be taken into consideration by the Supreme Court, the Court announced on June 30.

It was immediately sent back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration in light of the Bruen judgement by the Supreme Court instead of hearing the matter.

On the other hand, in the Miller vs. Bonta case on the state’s restriction on military-style firearms, the parties have filed opposing views as to what effect, if any, Bruen has.

Roger T. Benitez, an appointee of George W. Bush, invalidated California’s 30-year-old ban on military-style weapons, likening an AR-15 semiautomatic to a Swiss Army knife before judges on the 9th Circuit issued an order preventing the ruling from taking effect.

The state now wants Benitez’s decision to be overturned and the case sent back to the district court for a new trial in light of Bruen. As Benitez had done in Bruen, the plaintiffs urged that the court merely affirm Benitez’s decision and permit the sale of military-style firearms once more in the state of California

An appeals court in the 9th Circuit, in Jones vs. Bonta, overturned a lower court’s ruling that the state prohibition on semiautomatic rifle sales to adults under the age of 21 was unconstitutional in May.

Following the Supreme Court’s June judgement, the parties filed a joint request for additional time to evaluate the implications.

Some legal experts believe that Bruen’s statement is bad news for California laws that prohibit the possession of firearms solely based on public safety concerns. State officials can still argue that such restrictions are justified by historical precedent or otherwise designed to place as little hardship as possible on gun owners.

This case is more difficult to navigate than previously, and legal experts say they’ll be keeping an eye out to see how California’s gun restrictions are upheld.

Burbank Ammo & Guns’ Elsworth Andrews, a sales worker, displays a weapon to a customer.

In part, the 9th Circuit has been remanding cases back to district courts, where fact-finding occurs in federal cases, because Bruen relies on a “history and tradition” test, according to UCLA’s Winkler. There will be a lot of fresh research to be done on the history of gun regulations in California and the rest of the country.

“Cases challenging California’s gun restrictions will be about history and tradition and the historical nature of gun legislation,” Winkler said, rather than public policy considerations about gun violence and its consequences.

Circuit Judge Mark J. Bennett, a Trump appointee, asked California Deputy Attorney General Rita Bosworth what she thought of the argument from Frank, the couple’s attorney, that Bruen’s success in challenging gun restrictions warranted the Wallingfords’ being allowed to amend their original complaint during oral arguments Friday.

Bruen, according to Bosworth, was not relevant to the case because the Wallingford’s should have brought their challenge to the conditions of the restraining order in state court, not federal court.

It doesn’t matter if it was Bruen, pre-Bruen or post-Bruen, “this is an issue that should be contested in state court,” Bosworth said.

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