Elections Matter: How CA Rifle Case Win Could Have Huge Ripple Effect

Elections Matter: How CA Rifle Case Win Could Have Huge Ripple Effect
Elections Matter: How CA Rifle Case Win Could Have Huge Ripple Effect

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- When a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down California’s law prohibiting sales of semiautomatic rifles to young adults ages 18-20, it not only signaled a victory for gun rights groups but also underscored the importance of who occupies the oval office.

The case, known as Jones v. Bonta, was brought by a coalition including the Second Amendment Foundation, Calguns Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation, Poway Weapons and Gear and PWG Range, North County Shooting Center, Inc, Beebe Family Arms and Munitions, and three private citizens including Matthew Jones for whom the case is named.

The three-judge panel consisted of federal Judges Ryan Nelson and Kenneth Lee, both Donald Trump appointees, and visiting Judge Sidney Stein from the Southern District of New York, a Bill Clinton appointee. During his four years in office, the one thing Trump did that will seal his legacy was to fill as many vacancies on the federal courts as possible with conservative judges and Supreme Court justices.

Trump appointees—especially in the traditionally liberal Ninth Circuit—appear to have a welcome perspective and understanding of the Second Amendment’s protection of the individual right to keep and bear arms, according to gun rights activists. The Jones ruling, which is likely to now be pushed into an en banc review by a full panel as are virtually all other pro-Second Amendment decisions in that circuit, offers more proof that Trump’s court choices were good ones.

There is another important angle to the Jones ruling, alluded to in the Second Amendment Foundation’s news release, published by Ammoland News following the court action, and it is the impact this decision could have on another federal case out of Washington State.

After voters in Washington approved a well-financed initiative (bankrolled by the billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a Seattle-based gun prohibition lobbying organization) in 2018 that added several restrictions to ownership of semi-auto sport/utility rifles, SAF and the National Rifle Association, two Evergreen State gun dealers and three private citizens filed suit.

One of the onerous restrictions included in Initiative 1639 was a prohibition on the purchase of “semiautomatic assault rifles” by anyone in the 18-20-year age group. The Jones v. Bonta ruling could easily throw water on that part of the initiative, and Seattle anti-gunners are not happy. Washington is part of the Ninth Circuit.

SAF attorney Joel Ard of Seattle quickly brought this development to the attention of the Appeals Court clerk in a letter dated May 12. In that letter, he referred to language in the Jones ruling, stating “For these reasons and all those set out in Appellants’ Brief, this Court should reverse the District Court.”

As noted in the 70-page majority opinion authored by Judge Nelson, “…the historical record shows that the Second Amendment protects young adults’ right to keep and bear arms.

A few pages later, Judge Nelson added, “Here, our historical analysis leads us to conclude that young adults have a Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Because that right includes the right to purchase arms, both California laws burden conduct within the scope of the Second Amendment.”

According to the Associated Press and Seattle Times, UCLA law professor Adam Winkler believes this ruling is a signal the federal courts are ready to expand gun rights.

“Federal judges can read the tea leaves,” Winkler observed. “In the coming years, the courts seem certain to strike down numerous gun safety measures in the name of the 2nd Amendment. This 9th Circuit ruling is a harbinger of things to come.”

If Winkler is correct, the gun control movement in this country is in serious—and unavoidable—trouble.

The Washington case that could be immediately affected, known as Mitchell v. Atkins, was filed initially naming Attorney General Bob Ferguson as a defendant, but it was subsequently amended to let Ferguson out of the case.

There was some amusement for the plaintiffs at the time when it was erroneously reported the case had been withdrawn, with a spokesperson for the gun control lobby declaring victory. But SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb got the last laugh when he immediately issued a bristling correction, in which he stated, “We definitely have not dropped our lawsuit, despite a gloating news release from the Alliance for Gun Responsibility that claimed we voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit. We haven’t dismissed anything. I don’t know why the Alliance put a release out. It’s sloppy on their part, and seems only designed to discourage our members and supporters.

“Pardon the pun, but they obviously jumped the gun,” he said at the time.

Reacting to the Jones ruling, Gottlieb said he was not only “delighted” with the outcome, but also that Judge Nelson applied strict scrutiny, which is an awfully high barrier for anti-gunners to breach in their efforts to erode Second Amendment rights. The judge focused on this issue in his ruling.

“The dissent’s second rationale is that California’s ban does not impose a severe burden because young adults can just wait to buy semiautomatic rifles until they are 21,” Judge Nelson observed. “It’s true that we’ve applied intermediate scrutiny to a ten-day waiting period. But telling young adults to wait up to three years is a much more severe burden than having to wait a week and a half. We are not aware of any precedent that has adopted the dissent’s rationale. Indeed, telling an 18-year-old that he can vote when he turns 21 would hardly minimize the existing constitutional deprivation.”

In his concurring opinion, Judge Lee led with an observation that cuts to the heart of the California ban, and arguably the one in the Washington state case.

“I join the opinion in full but write separately to highlight how California’s legal position has no logical stopping point and would ultimately erode fundamental rights enumerated in our Constitution,” Judge Lee reasoned. “Simply put, we cannot jettison our constitutional rights, even if the goal behind a law is laudable.”

Translation: Rights are special, and they cannot be simply ignored just because they get in the way.

A few paragraphs later, Judge Lee added, “If California can deny the Second Amendment right to young adults based on their group’s disproportionate involvement in violent crimes, then the government can deny that right—as well as other rights—to other groups.”

It is a dilemma advocates for all manner of regulations will ultimately face, because at some point, the regulatory demon will be on their doorstep.


About Dave Workman

Dave Workman is a senior editor at TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms, and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.

Dave Workman

3.3 6 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

In Washington State, not only did voters pass an Initiative regarding semiautomatic rifles, now labeled “assault rifles,” including .22LR, but semi-auto pistols are also considered “assault weapons,” falling under the same purchasing requirements.


The 9th Circuit Court should not be allowed to decide on anything, they are a left wing group of activists. It’s time to stop their nonsense in the land of fruits and nuts.


In this case a three judge panel in the 9th circuit ruled appropriately. They are not all nuts.

Heck – Saint Benitez is in the 9th circuit.


It doesn’t matter what nonsense the courts want to try to force on American Citizens. Their long game is to take all of our guns, and that just isn’t going to happen. It’s frustrating to me because, as a vet, we would put rifles in the hands of 18 year old to go fight foreign wars based on American diplomacy. But those 18 to 20 old kids couldn’t purchase rifles for personal use? More nonsense from the left. This will be what pushes America to it’s breaking point with this BS.


Not just rifles. In my first year in the Army (age 18-19) I carried an M60 machine gun, an M249 SAW machine gun, and an M203 rifle with grenade launcher. So yeah, the thought that “kids” that are 18 but not 21 shouldn’t have rifles is laughable.


Reading this article reminds me of what happened recently in Buffalo. A “young man”/TERRORIST, who was known to the LAW OFFICIALS for threatening to shoot up a school, went to a food store and MURDERED at least 10 INNOCENT AMERICAN CITIZENS. Then IMMEDIATELY — the CONTROLLERS started SCREAMING for more CONTROL over LEGAL LAW ABIDING American Citizens who happen to own guns. Where is the family or friends of the ASSASSIN who committed this HORRIBLE act of WANTON TERRORISM?


the 9th circus has been the most overturned circuit because of their violation of judicial ethics, also because they do not follow the rule of law. strict scrutiny should be used when deciding constitutional cases. rights should very rarely be restricted, if at all. how can you tell someone who has all legal rights to do virtually anything else that they cannot purchase a firearm? how about telling them to wait until they are 30 and grown up and thinking straight to vote or wait until 26 to buy a car because younger people get in more auto accidents? think… Read more »


Or how about the individual that can’t exercise their right because they are to young won’t have to pay taxes till they can exercise that right. lol


the whole of the 9th will uphold the law and off to dc it goes to be shot down with hopes scotus will censure the members of the 9th publicly and tell them to correct their ruling


What you speak to is called “INTIMIDATION”. This action of INTIMIDATION IS ILLEGAL! It IS illegal to try to influence the actions of Judges or Witnesses in ANY COURT CASE!! Just as it IS ILLEGAL to HARASS a Judge outside of his home!


The Supreme Court is well within its legal powers to correct and censure a lower court for a bad decision that ignores the Constitution. This has happened many times in the past.


You’re probably right, but it’s not over.