Judge Opens Door to Banning Semi-Automatic Rifles

July 30, 2019


Matthew Hoy

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton of the Central District of California, ruled in the case of Rupp v. Becerra that semi-automatic rifles are not protected by the Second Amendment.

Judge Josephine L. Staton

Staton's ruling relies heavily on the atrocious Fourth Circuit en banc ruling in the Kolbe case that created the curious logical construction that the Second Amendment:

  1. Does not protect firearms that are most useful for military service.
  2. AR-15-pattern rifles are similar to the military's M-16 and M-4 rifles.
  3. Military rifles are unusual and dangerous.
  4. Heller said the right to keep and bear arms did not apply to unusual or dangerous weapons.
  5. Therefore, the AR-15 is most useful for military service and not protected under the Second Amendment.

Let's take a look at the text of the Second Amendment really quick:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Wordsmiths might note that the Second Amendment's preamble might give a hint as to what kinds of weapons are protected. Militia....Military...something's similar about those two words. Maybe military-style weapons aren't really "unusual or dangerous."

Judge Gives California Legislators a Green Light for More Gun Control

While Staton's ruling technically only applies to the constitutionality of California's latest assault weapons ban, the conflating of automatic and semi-automatic rifles and then stating both types are outside of the Second Amendment's protection is a green light for an increasingly tyrannical, anti-gun legislature.

Staton's ruling focuses on the functionality of automatic vs. semi-automatic as to the rate of fire of each type of weapon. According to Staton's ruling, Congress' now-defunct federal assault weapons ban claimed that a semi-automatic rifle could be fired at a rate of 300-500 rounds per minute. An M16 can in theory fire at a rate of 800 rounds per minute. (Firing at either of these rates would in all likelihood last no more than 1-2 minutes before the firearm failed. See this video.)

Again, while focused on Scary Black Rifles, Staton doesn't distinguish between those with evil features like a pistol grip, flash suppressor or adjustable stock, and those without.

A semi-automatic rifle is a semi-automatic rifle is a semi-automatic rifle.

If an AR-15 pattern rifle falls outside the 2nd Amendment's protection because its rate of fire, then Ruger's Ranch Rifle does as well.

In fact, this ruling is a green light for California legislators to institute a gun ban on all semi-automatic rifles.

The Hypothetical Max Firing Rate for Semi-Automatic Rifles is Not Achievable

In a real-world scenario, it's not clear that any semi-automatic weapon could be made to fire that many rounds in such a short time.

Jerry Miculek is a professional shooter and widely acknowledged to have perhaps the fastest trigger finger in the world.

Here's Miculek with an IWI Tavor, a semi-automatic rifle that fires the same ammunition as an AR-15  and even uses the same magazines as an AR-15.

Miculek, the world's fastest shooter, gets off 40 rounds in just over 6 seconds. Multiply both those figures by 10 and you get 400 rounds per minute, which puts him right in the middle of the 300-500 round per minute range in Staton's ruling.

The problem here is twofold:

  1. It doesn't include magazine changes, of which Miculek would have to make 10 of them.
  2. You can tell by the end of the 40 rounds that Miculek is beginning to get gassed. He would not be able to maintain that rate of fire for a full minute.

And Then There's The Ignorant Journalist and His Editor

This story on the ruling is perhaps the most illustrative of the absolute ignorance of far too many liberal reporters.

A federal judge has upheld California’s ban on owning, manufacturing or selling semiautomatic rifles and the “bullet buttons” that convert a conventional rifle into a rapid-fire weapon.

A bullet button does not convert a "conventional rifle" into a rapid fire weapon. A bullet button has nothing to do with the rate of fire of a weapon. The bullet button was created after California lawmakers made it illegal to have a standard, finger-pressed, magazine release on scary black rifles.

The law required some sort of tool to be used and the bullet button was created, making it so that a tool (like a bullet) is required to depress the magazine release. A bullet button slows the speed at which magazines can be changed on rifles, but not enough for California legislators.

Semiautomatic rifles, classified as “assault weapons” under state law, have detachable magazines and pistol grips or other features that allow repeated firing without frequently reloading.

The reporter, Bob Egelko, is already doing the anti-gun legislature's work here, conflating "semi-automatic" and "assault weapons." Under California's draconian gun laws, all assault weapons are semi-automatic, but not all semi-automatics are assault weapons.

California has banned the weapons for 20 years, and in 2016 also outlawed “bullet buttons,” which are attached to regular gun magazines and allow them to be quickly removed and replaced.

Bullet buttons are not attached to the gun magazines. They don't allow them to be quickly removed and replaced.

The Supreme Court and a Glimpse of What Might Have Been

The good news is that the Supreme Court, with Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will likely begin to rein in the activist judicial rulings that Justice Anthony Kennedy was willing to let run wild. The case to keep an eye on is the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York which will likely be argued this fall.

It should also now be clear what 2nd Amendment advocates likely would've been facing had Hillary Clinton won the presidency and appointed liberal, anti-gun zealots to replace Justices Antonin Scalia and Kennedy.

There is a very real push on the part of gun control activists to ban not just modern sporting rifles, but all semi-automatic weapons from civilian hands. Judges and legislatures unbound by the actual text of the Heller decision would simply define semi-automatic as "dangerous and unusual" and voilá, the majority of rifles and handguns on the market today are now only allowed for use by the military and the criminals.

With Hillary Clinton-nominated judges populating the judiciary, we'd likely be talking about doing what we can in the state legislatures of the south and the mountain west to keep the Second Amendment on life support—the judiciary would likely be a lost cause for at least a generation.

The NYSRPA case is a good start for making the Second Amendment a first-class right, but it alone won't be enough. If there aren't follow-on cases pushing back at continued infringements like Rupp and Kolbe and Rhode and much more, then you can bet the next step will be that semi-auto weapons ban.

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