Governor, attorney general fight to keep California's assault weapons ban

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (L) and Attorney General Rob Bonta (R) at a press conference on June 10, 2021 in San Francisco, California.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (L) and Attorney General Rob Bonta (R) at a press conference on June 10, 2021 in San Francisco, California. Photo credit Margie Shafer/KCBS Radio

California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Gov. Gavin Newsom have appealed a district court's ruling to overturn the state's ban on assault weapons.

In an announcement on Thursday, Bonta and Newsom declared their intention to appeal a recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in Miller v. Bonta.

The decision declared the state’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons unconstitutional. According to a press release, Bonta will also ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to extend the current 30-day stay of the decision, keeping the ban in effect while the decision is appealed.

"Equating firearms that been used in many of the deadliest mass shootings in this country with Swiss Army knives has no basis in law or fact," said Bonta. "The ban on assault weapons will not put an end to all gun violence, but it is one important tool the state has to protect the safety of Californians while also respecting the rights of law-abiding residents who choose to possess firearms."

In a press conference also on Thursday at San Francisco General Hospital, a level one trauma center where gunshot victims are often treated, Dr. Andre Campbell, a trauma surgeon with UCSF's Department of Surgery, compared the AR-15 rifle to a weapon of mass destruction. "The skin, the muscles, the blood vessels, the nerves, the bone is all destroyed as it wreaks total havoc on human tissues," he said.

Each time he has to go into a room and tell a loved one’s family that their loved one is dead from a gunshot it is heartbreaking, Campbell added.

The California Legislature passed the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act in 1989, designating certain firearms as assault weapons and banning ownership and transfer of those weapons.

In 2000, an amendment was added making the definition of assault firearms more flexible to prevent gun manufacturers from making and marketing similar brands to the banned models.

Last week, on June 4, a federal judge overturned the ban.

"California’s assault weapons ban has saved lives, and we refuse to let these weapons of war back onto our streets," said the governor.

"This is a fight California will never back down from, period," added Newsom.

Along with Newsom and Bonta, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Robyn Thomas, the executive director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and mothers of those killed by gun violence offered support.​