U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Federal Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego, who has issued pro-Second Amendment rulings at least twice against California state statutes, was scheduled to hold an evidentiary hearing in another gun rights case Monday morning, and that is eliciting wails from gun prohibition groups.
Anti-gun groups are already on the warpath against the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. For example, the Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility is campaigning to prevent confirmation, calling Judge Barrett “a Second Amendment extremist.”
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Judge Benitez, a 2004 George W. Bush appointee now on senior status, is presiding over a case challenging “several laws regulating and defining assault weapons in the state” of California. He can do this because of a rule that allows federal judges to take “related” cases. In this case, Benitez has handled other gun cases and anti-gunners haven’t like the outcome.
The case is known as Miller v. Becerra.
But there was no similar concern from the gun control lobby when federal Judge Jack B. Weinstein in New York was handling gun-related cases. In 2007, the Second Amendment Foundation called on Judge Weinstein to retire because of his consistently anti-gun rulings. He had cases assigned to him under the “related case” rule, but since his rulings were more favorable to the gun control side, nobody squawked.
If Judge Benitez again rules in favor of the right to keep and bear arms, expect the state to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and if his ruling is upheld by a three-judge panel, expect someone to demand an en banc hearing before a full panel.
It’s not just California laws at stake, either. The Ninth Circuit encompasses all the western states, including Hawaii and Alaska.
One of Benitez’ earlier cases, Duncan v. Becerra, was upheld 2-1 in August. That case struck down California’s ban on so-called “high capacity” magazines. The majority opinion was authored by Judge Kenneth K. Lee, a Donald Trump appointee.
Earlier this year, Judge Benitez declared California’s background check requirement for ammunition purchases is unconstitutional.
Long story short, Benitez is a judge anti-gunners do not want on the bench, at least when it comes to hearing Second Amendment cases. The gun prohibition lobby is spinning Judge Benitez’ expertise on gun issues into a threat to efforts aimed at curtailing so-called “gun violence.” As noted by the San Diego Union-Tribune—quoting Ari Freilich, state policy director for the Giffords Law Center—“The purpose of the rule is for judges engaged in complex cases really drilling into the issues, and not having to reinvent the wheel on a really similar case…This has been taken to an illogical extreme now when one judge is ruling on everything touching upon gun violence in the state of California.”
Another way to frame this, however, is that Judge Benitez is ruling on everything touching upon gun control in the state of California. Essentially, Benitez is Judge Weinstein in reverse.
This week’s case before Judge Benitez reportedly challenges several state laws that define “assault weapons.” Plaintiffs include the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc., California Gun Rights Foundation, San Diego County Gun Owners PAC, two private businesses and five private citizens.
By no surprise, amicus briefs have been filed by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The Miller case unfolds against a dramatic backdrop that includes the confirmation effort to place Judge Barrett on the high court—succeeding the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—and the looming presidential election pitting career anti-gun Democrat Joe Biden against incumbent President Trump, who has spent the past three-plus years filling federal court vacancies with constitutional judges. This has brought some semblance of balance back to the federal courts, say Trump supporters, and it may be Trump’s most important and lasting legacy, whether he is elected to serve another four-year term, or Biden wins in what will be a hotly contested election outcome.
Adding to this mix, Trump has once again promised to sign national concealed carry reciprocity legislation, if such a bill hits his desk. As far back as 2015, Trump has expressed support for reciprocity, comparing the issue to that of a state driver’s license being recognized across the country. Driving is a privilege, bearing arms is a constitutionally enumerated fundamental right.
Yet Trump still has critics within the firearms community who are sore about bump stocks, and about some pronouncements, he has made in the past. Some observers say privately, however, that it’s not what Trump may have said in the past, but what he has actually done that should draw strong gun owner support.
The fact he is being challenged by Biden, who has bragged loudly he will ban so-called “assault weapons” and essentially make life miserable for gun owners via additional regulations and restrictions, is no small consideration, either. And his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, has been no friend to California gun owners.
Three years ago, the House under then-Speaker Paul Ryan, passed reciprocity legislation, but it gathered dust in the Senate. For such legislation to hit Trump’s desk will require the House to flip to Republican control, the GOP to retain the Senate and for the president to be re-elected.
Those are tall orders and would require every gun owner in the country to vote uniformly for Republicans.
Currently, many states have concealed carry reciprocal agreements, but only a federal law would cement that and apply it to all states. Politicians from New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and other eastern and northeastern states have opposed this idea, along with those in California.
About Dave Workman