Current Legality of Automatic Firearms in California
In 1989, California passed the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act (codified as Cal. Penal Code §§ 30500-31115) which, in effect, made it illegal to own or semi-automatic firearms (they were classified as assault weapons). Currently referred to Assault Weapons Control Act (“AWCA”) this ban has been challenged multiple times in its history and continues to be challenged today. In Kasler v. Lockyer (2000) and Harrott v. Kings County (2001), the California Supreme Court upheld the AWCA with relatively minor adjustments due to vagueness within the law. Dissatisfied with California state court rulings, the AWCA began to be challenged in federal court under Second Amendment defenses.
Perhaps the most memorable, as well the most recent, federal case is Miller v. Bonta (2021). In Miller, Judge Roger Benitez compared the AR-15 rifle to the Swiss Army Knife, calling it “a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment”. The Miller Court proceeded to declare the AWCA unconstitutional under Second Amendment stating “[t]he banned “assault weapons” are not bazookas, howitzers, or machineguns…[t]hose arms are dangerous[.]” Though declared unconstitutional, the Miller Court’s order was “stayed pending resolution of Rupp v. Bonta, No. 19-56004” by the 9th Circuit on June 21. Rupp is a similar case which, in turn, has been “held in abeyance” until the resolution of Duncan v. Becerra, Docket No. 19-55376. Duncan was decided on August 14, 2020 by the 9th Circuit invalidating the AWCA only to vacate its decision on February 25, 2021 in preparation for an en blanc 9th Circuit decision. Though confusing, what this means is that the fate of the AWCA will likely be decided by the 9th circuit in their en blanc (en blanc meaning, all judges of a particular court will hear the case appeal) decision of Duncan v. Becerra, not rather than Miller v. Bonta.
In other words, for now, AWCA is in full effect and the AR-15 rifle remains banned. [*The Burton Law Firm is an amalgamation of various attorneys with various beliefs and opinion. The firm takes no political position and merely provides analysis of the current law.] For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 916-822-8700 for a consultation.
 Kasler v. Lockyer, 23 Cal. 4th 472 (2000); Harrott v. Kings County 25 Cal. 4th 1138 (2001).
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