Federal Judge Strikes Down California’s One-Gun-a-Month Law

Federal Judge Strikes Down California’s One-Gun-a-Month Law

Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference in Sacramento, Calif., on Feb. 1, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Zachary Stieber

Zachary Stieber

3/12/2024

Updated: 3/12/2024

A California law barring people from buying more than one gun a month has been struck down.
In his March 11 ruling, a federal judge said that the one-gun-a-month (OGM) law does not adhere to requirements for gun restrictions outlined by the U.S. Supreme Court in a pivotal 2022 decision.
“Defendants have not met their burden of producing a ‘well-established and representative historical analogue’ to the OGM law,” U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes wrote in the decision.
“The court therefore concludes that plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment as to the constitutionality of the OGM law under the Second Amendment.”
The U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment states: “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.”
The Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen says that if a law regulates conduct covered by the Second Amendment, officials defending the law must show it is “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
Defendants must provide “historical precedent from before, during, and even after the founding [that] evinces a comparable tradition of regulation,” the high court stated.
Justices instructed lower courts not to “uphold every modern law that remotely resembles a historical analogue” but that “analogical reasoning requires only that the government identify a well-established and representative historical analogue, not a historical twin.”
They also issued guidance for judges to consider “how and why the regulations burden a law-abiding citizen’s right to armed self-defense“ and to examine ”whether modern and historical regulations impose a comparable burden on the right of armed self-defense and whether that burden is comparably justified are central considerations when engaging in an analogical inquiry.”
The law, signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019, barred people who bought a handgun or semiautomatic centerfire rifle from a dealer from applying to buy another handgun or semiautomatic centerfire rifle for at least 30 days.
“Gun violence is an epidemic in this country, one that’s been enflamed by the inaction of politicians in Washington,” Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, said at the time.
“While Washington has refused to act on even the most basic gun safety reforms, California is once again leading the nation in passing meaningful gun safety reforms.”
Gun owners and groups sued in 2020, saying the law violated their constitutional rights.
After the 2022 Supreme Court ruling, defendants were ordered to provide historical examples of similar laws.
California officials offered four categories of historical restrictions, including regulations on selling guns to Native Americans and regulations on gunpowder.
Those regulations are not relevant to the law in question, Judge Hayes said.

Differing Objectives

The restrictions on Native Americans, for instance, “do not impose a comparable burden” to the California law, he wrote.
“The identified historical laws targeted only a narrow subset of the population perceived as dangerous, while the OGM law, with limited exceptions, affects all people acquiring handguns and semiautomatic centerfire rifles in California.
“Further, laws restricting the sale of arms to Native Americans impose neither a quantity nor time limitation similar to that of the OGM law.”
The gunpowder regulations were comparable because they “placed limits on the ownership and storage of gunpowder,” but “did not completely prevent people from purchasing gunpowder,” the state argued.
The regulations and the 2019 California law are “comparably justified” because both were imposed to “promote public safety,” the state said.
Judge Hayes, though, noted that officials have said previously that the California law was aimed at reducing firearms trafficking and disarming criminals, while the gunpowder regulations were put in place to prevent fires and explosions.
“Put simply, gunpowder regulations addressed fire-related risks, while the OGM law addresses risks associated with illegal gun trafficking and gun violence. Gunpowder restrictions and the OGM law are therefore not comparably justified,” he said.
Judge Hayes, a George W. Bush appointee, entered a stay of the order for 30 days to enable California officials to appeal.
“We are currently evaluating the decision, but it is important to acknowledge that the law limiting firearm purchases to one every thirty days remains in effect at this time,” a spokesperson for California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat, told The Epoch Times via email.
“Another week, another California gun control law declared unconstitutional by a federal court,” Cody J. Wisniewski, vice president and general counsel of the Firearms Policy Coalition, said in a statement. Some of the group’s members are among the plaintiffs.
“California’s one-gun-a-month law directly violates California residents’ right to acquire arms and has no basis in history,“ Mr. Wisniewski said. ”Given it seems certain California will refuse to learn its lesson, we look forward to continuing to strike down its gun control regime and to defending this victory.”
“This is a win for gun rights and California gun owners,” Alan M. Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, another plaintiff, said in a statement. “There is no historical justification for limiting law-abiding citizens to a single handgun or rifle purchase during a one-month period, and Judge Hayes’ ruling clearly points that out.”
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Zachary Stieber

Zachary Stieber

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Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news. Contact Zachary at zack.stieber@epochtimes.com

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