Gov. Gavin Newsom
slammed U.S. District Judge
Roger Benitez on Thursday as a "wholly-owned subsidiary of the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association
" in a stinging rebuke of the federal judge who recently overturned California
“We need to call this federal judge out,” the Democratic governor
said as he announced the state’s decision to appeal Benitez’s ruling. “He will continue to do damage, mark my words.”
Last week, Benitez overturned California's three-decade-old ban on certain types of semi-automatic rifles, including the popular AR-15. Gun control
advocates chastised Benitez, while Newsom called it "a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period."
War weapons have no place on our streets. California's assault weapon ban has saved countless lives, and we will do everything in our power to keep it in place. https://t.co/Kgczf5oba5
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 10, 2021
Benitez compared the AR-15 to a "Swiss Army knife" in his decision, describing it as a "perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment."
“This is not a case about extraordinary weapons at the edge of Second Amendment protection,” he wrote, “but about average guns
used in average ways for average purposes.”
According to a March Newsweek analysis, an AR-15, which was designed to have “maximum wound effect,” was used in 26% of the last 80 mass shootings
in the United States
, including some of the deadliest.
Nonetheless, Benitez wrote in his decision that "the'harm' of an assault rifle being used in a mass shooting is an infinitesimally rare event."
have died from the COVID-19 vaccine
than in California mass shootings,” he wrote, without citing any evidence.
Benitez also claimed that "injuries from firearms like the AR-15, which are prohibited as 'assault weapons,' are no different from injuries from other firearms that are common and legal to own."
Doctors, on the other hand, have spoken out.
Dr. Heather Sher, a Florida
radiologist who has treated many gunshot wound victims, including the teenagers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
in 2018, wrote in an op-ed that year that “bullets fired by an AR-15... travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun.”
“A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling nearly three times faster – and imparting more than three times the energy
of – a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun,” Sher wrote. “An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine holding 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.”
Benitez, a George W. Bush appointee from 2003, is no stranger to controversy, particularly on the issue of gun control. In 2017, he overturned a state ban on the sale of large-capacity magazines holding more than ten bullets, and in 2020, he blocked a law
requiring background checks for people wanting to buy ammunition.
Both decisions are being appealed by California at the moment.
“We need to call this federal judge out,” Newsom said, adding that “he will continue to do damage.” https://t.co/sad6Zob9QD
pic.twitter.com/vn4tfp9L3e — POLITICO
(@politico) June 10, 2021
On Thursday, Newsom called Benitez a "stone-cold ideologue" and a "shill for the gun industry."
“This is a very focused agenda to work
through this judge, where the decision is already made before it’s even presented, who writes press releases for the gun lobby,” the governor said.
Gun-control advocates slammed Newsom's choice of words.
In a statement, the Firearms Policy Coalition said it “condemns Governor Newsom’s outrageous and callous personal attacks on the honorable Federal District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez.”
“Gavin Newsom’s Department of Justice
had the opportunity to present its facts in court — and failed to do so,” California Rifle and Pistol Association President
C.D. Michel told Politico. “Now that Judge Benitez has ruled against Gavin Newsom, he is shamefully attacking a federal judge with politicized falsehoods because Newsom got a result he didn’t like.”
Benitez had issued an automatic 30-day stay of his decision overturning the assault weapons ban, recognizing the state's inevitable appeal.
The case will now be heard by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and it could end up before the Supreme Court
, which currently has a conservative 6-3 majority.
According to Newsom, “a lot is on the line.”