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Newsom calls judge “wholly owned subsidiary of gun lobby” after gun ruling

In a merciless rebuke from federal judge who recently overturned California’s assault weapons ban, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday blasted U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez as a “wholly owned subsidiary of the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association “.

“We have to call this federal judge,” the Democratic governor told reporters as he announced the state’s decision to appeal Benitez’s decision. “He will continue to do damage. Listen to me carefully.”

Benitez last week rescinded the ban on certain types of semi-automatic rifles in California, including the popular AR-15. Gun control advocates skewered Benitez for the decision, while Newsom called him a “direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period.”

In his ruling, Benitez likened the AR-15 to a “Swiss Army knife” and described it as a “perfect combination of national defense weapon and national defense equipment”.

“This case is not about extraordinary weapons located at the outer limits of Second Amendment protection,” he wrote. “This is an average case of medium firearms used on an average to medium purpose.”

According to a March Newsweek analysis, 26% of the last 80 mass shootings in the United States, including some of the deadliest, involved the use of an AR-15, which was designed – according to its makers to have “a maximum injury effect. ”

Yet Benitez wrote in his ruling that “the ‘harm’ of an assault rifle used in a mass shooting is an infinitely rare occurrence.”

“More people have died from the COVID-19 vaccine than mass shootings in California,” he wrote without citing evidence.

Benitez also asserted that “injuries from firearms like the AR-15 that are prohibited as ‘assault weapons’ are no different from other firearms that are common and legal to own. “

Doctors, however, said the opposite.

Dr Heather Sher, a radiologist from Florida who has treated numerous gunshot wound victims, including teens shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, said in an editorial that year that “bullets fired by an AR -15… higher velocity and are much deadlier than routine handgun bullets. “

“A typical AR-15 bullet lets the barrel move almost three times faster than a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun – and transmits more than three times as much energy,” Sher wrote. “An AR-15 rifle equipped with a 50-round magazine can quickly deliver many more lethal bullets without reloading. “

Benitez – a person appointed by George W. Bush in 2003 – is no stranger to controversy, especially on the gun control front. In 2017, he overturned a state ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines containing more than 10 bullets; and in 2020, he blocked a law requiring background checks for people wishing to purchase ammunition.

California is currently appealing the two decisions.

Newsom on Thursday described Benitez as an “ice-cold ideologue” and a gun-industry stooge.

“This is a very focused program to work with this judge, where the decision is already made before it is even presented, who writes press releases on behalf of the gun lobby,” the governor said. .

Gun rights groups were quick to criticize Newsom’s choice of words.

The Firearms Policy Coalition said in a statement that it “condemns Governor Newsom’s outrageous and callous personal attacks on the Honorable Federal District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez.”

“Gavin Newsom’s Justice Department had the opportunity to present their facts in court – and did not,” California Rifle and Pistol Association president CD Michel told Politico. “Now that Judge Benitez has ruled against Gavin Newsom, he’s shamefully attacking a federal judge with politicized lies because Newsom got a result he didn’t like. Newsom can stomp his foot as much as he wants, but the Constitution will win. “

Benitez had pronounced an automatic 30-day stay of his decision overturning the ban on assault weapons, acknowledging the inevitable appeal of the state.

The case is now heading to the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals and could eventually end up in the Supreme Court, which currently has a Conservative 6-3 majority.

There is “a lot at stake,” Newsom said Thursday.

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