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Federal judge -- somewhat reluctantly -- upholds California law banning billy clubs

Kristina Davis, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

But the judge also identified several gray areas in the law.

What qualifies as longstanding in this sense "lies in an area where maps are yet to be drawn," he wrote.

He also expressed discomfort with having to end his constitutional analysis at the first step.

"Why should a longstanding regulation be kept permanently beyond the reach of constitutional review?" he wrote. By continuing to uphold firearm restrictions without further analysis, "a longstanding firearm restriction may be left stuck in the past, only because it has not been challenged before the present."

And he chided both parties for what he called a lack of evidence on whether the billy is considered commonly owned — a threshold question in many Second Amendment cases.

If the analysis hadn't been cut short by controlling precedent, "the lack of evidence would probably have changed the outcome," he wrote in a nearly page-long footnote. "The plaintiffs do not have to shoulder the burden of proving that they are entitled to enjoy Second Amendment rights. The command of the Amendment is that the right to keep and bear arms 'shall not be infringed.'"

He continued: "Of course, whether this Court agrees or not, it is bound to follow binding precedent."

 

While this ruling ultimately did not overturn the law, his expansive view of the Second Amendment echoes other rulings that have upended California's stringent gun-regulation scheme.

In 2019, he overturned a ban on gun magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. In 2020, he blocked a voter-approved law requiring background checks for ammunition purchases. And this summer, he deemed the state's ban on assault weapons unconstitutional, famously comparing an AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army knife.

He name-checked those decisions in this ruling when considering whether a law was longstanding, noting the three gun-related laws were modern restrictions "with no historical pedigrees."

All three cases are being appealed.

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