A man walks with an American flag mask over his face and carries a white flag with the image of a gun that reads "come and take it."
A gun rights activist walks near a closed Virginia State Capitol on Lobby Day January 18, 2021 in Richmond, Va.
Photo by Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • A US federal judge overturned California's ban on assault weapons on Friday.
  • The ban had been in place since 1989, but the judge ruled it violated constitutional rights.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized the decision as a "direct threat to public safety."
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A federal judge overturned California's decades-old ban on assault weapons on Friday.

US District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego ruled the ban violated citizen's constitutional right to bear arms which is protected by the Second Amendment.

"The Supreme Court clearly holds that the Second Amendment protects guns commonly owned by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes," Benitez wrote in the ruling.

Benitez, a George W. Bush appointee who joined the US District Court in 2004, said the way California defines assault weapons unlawfully prevents citizens from obtaining guns that are allowed in most US states.

"The banned 'assault weapons' are not bazookas, howitzers, or machine guns. Those arms are dangerous and solely useful for military purposes. Instead, the firearms deemed 'assault weapons' are fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles. This is an average case about average guns used in average ways for average purposes," he continued.

California's assault weapons ban was first passed in 1989. The lift of the ban will take effect in 30 days.

Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized the decision: "Today's decision is a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period. As the son of a judge, I grew up with deep respect for the judicial process and the importance of a judge's ability to make impartial fact-based rulings, but the fact that this judge compared the AR-15 - a weapon of war that's used on the battlefield - to a Swiss Army Knife completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who've lost loved ones to this weapon."

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