It may be difficult to understand the state of legal affairs with regard to California’s Prop. 63 imposed ammunition purchase background check law. Given that that the status of the law has gone back and forth in less than a span of a week, it’s little wonder that it’s difficult for many to understand the status. This article attempts to break down what happened without resorting to too much legal nuance or legal inside baseball.
Federal District Court Judge Roger Benitez was the trial judge for a case involving a challenge to the California background check law. Federal district courts are the trial level of the federal court system. They are where any case begins. Olympian Kim Rhode and others filed suit in the federal district court saying that, among other things, the California background check law had infringed their Second Amendment rights. Indeed, at trial, evidence was presented that pushing 20% of lawful purchasers had been denied the ability to purchase ammunition. That certainly sounds like a flawed law and system infringing on Second Amendment rights to us, but here it was Judge Benitez’s understanding of the law and facts that mattered. Judge Benitez did appear to agree, because for this and other reasons, Judge Benitez issued an injunction against the law, meaning that the law was no longer in effect.
From that point, Defendant, and California State Attorney General, Xavier Becerra had one option, he could seek a stay on the injunction from the trial court. That means that he could ask Judge Benitez for a stay on the order granting the injunction. Becerra made the motion for the stay on the order. Judge Benitez denied that motion. This opened up another option for Becerra; he could now apply to the 9
Circuit Court of Appeals, the next higher level court, for an emergency motion to stay Judge Benitez’s order granting the injunction. The 9
Circuit appoints a panel of three judges on a monthly basis to hear such motions. April’s panel included Judge Murguia, appointed by President Obama, Judge Owens, appointed by President Obama, and Judge Bennett, appointed by President Trump. An interesting note about Judge Bennett is that the Senate approved his nomination by a vote of 72-27. The 27 votes against were all from Republican Senators due to his stance on the First and Second Amendments. More detailed information can be found in this article from the Washing Times here:
One might even go so far as to call Judge Bennett a collective right enthusiast regarding the Second Amendment. Given the likely ideological bents of all three judges, it should have come as no surprise that the emergency motion was granted, ending the injunction, and restoring the California ammunition law back to the way it was before Judge Benitez’s order. While the litigation is not over, as certainly Becerra will be appealing to the 9
th Circuit, at least for now, the day or two of ammunition freedom (in fact the normal state of affairs from statehood in 1850 until roughly two years ago) is over. We will keep you updated on the case as it moves forward, particularly concentrating on how outcomes from the case affect you.