California's assault weapons ban will remain in force while the state attorney general appeals a lower court decision declaring the 30-year-old measure unconstitutional, Reuters reports. A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego from taking effect while the case remains under review. The panel unanimously agreed that state Attorney General Rob Bonta's appeal in support of the gun law would be heard on an expedited basis. Siding with gun rights advocates, Benitez ruled on Oct. 19 that the assault weapons ban deprived law-abiding citizens of semiautomatic firearms like the AR-15 in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms."
B,y a 2-1 majority the 9th Circuit panel stayed the judge's order, citing the full appeals court's finding in a similar case that the attorney general was likely to succeed on the merits and had shown that "California would be irreparably harmed absent a stay." Bonta had called Benitez' decision "dangerous and misguided," saying, "Weapons of war do not belong on our streets." California in 1989 became the first state to ban assault weapons, acting after a school shooting that killed five children. Since then, California has restricted the manufacture, distribution, transportation, importation, sale or possession of firearms that qualify under the law as "assault weapons." Such guns are defined as those with certain tactical enhancements or configurations designed to make them more dangerous to the public and susceptible to criminal use.