LOS ANGELES, SEPT. 10 -- A federal judge today threw out the National Rifle Association's suit against California's new ban on military-style assault weapons in what attorneys called a blow to gun owners' hopes of blocking a new wave of gun control measures.
Gun control advocates hailed the decision by U.S. District Judge Edward Dean Price of Fresno and said it buttressed California's ban of 56 different semiautomatic weapons just as Congress is about to begin debate on a federal assault rifle bill and an overall crime measure with significant gun control provisions.
"It's just common sense," said Barbara Lautman, executive director of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. "Assault weapons, like Uzis, AK-47s and MAC-10s, have no place on our nation's streets."
Spokesmen for the NRA, which filed the suit in February along with several gun owners and other organizations, declined to comment until they review the decision. The suit argued that the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the Constitution took precedence over California law, and asserted that several provisions of the assault weapon statute violated constitutional provisions against self-incrimination and for equal protection under the law.
Price rejected the NRA's interpretation and granted a motion by California Attorney General John Van de Kamp to dismiss the suit. Dennis Henigan, director of the Legal Action Project of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, said the decision reaffirmed previous rulings that the Second Amendment "does not apply as a limitation on the states at all" and only protects the right of state militia to carry weapons.
In a news conference in Washington today, the police chiefs of New York and the District of Columbia urged Congress to pass the two gun control-related bills to stop a surge of urban murders. "It is time to vote for life over death," said D.C. police chief Isaac Fulwood in support of the so-called Brady bill to require a seven-day waiting period before a gun dealer can sell a handgun and a federal ban on some American-made assault weapons.
The NRA has argued that criminals and emotionally disturbed individuals will still be able to acquire firearms on the black market and that the best way to curb gun violence is to impose stiffer punishment on those who use firearms to commit crimes. Some target shooters and collectors also object to singling out military-style assault weapons, since many weapons unaffected by the ban can be just as lethal.