California assault-weapon ruling reckless, says Sikh community

RITU JHA

The recent ruling to overturn California’s 32-year-old ban on assault weapons is reckless, said many in the state’s Sikh community that is still healing from the death of one of their own in a mass shooting in San Jose.

Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” Judge Roger Benitez wrote in the ruling of the US District Court for the Southern District of California.

Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and United States v Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR-15 type rifle. Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional,” Judge Benitez added in the introduction.

Bob Dhillon, a veteran Sikh community leader and founder of the San Jose Gurdwara, was at a loss for words in reaction to the ruling.

I don’t understand it,” Dhillon told indica News. “There is no comparison between an automatic weapon with a knife!”

In 2019, James Miller, a board member of the San Diego County Gun Owners, sued the state, alleging that the ban was an unconstitutional restriction of Second Amendment rights. Last Friday, Judge Benitez ruled that California’s ban did violate the Second Amendment.

How can the Second Amendment be more important than people losing their lives?” Dhillon asked. “He is totally ignoring what is going on… the misuse of weapons.”

The court documents states that the judge in his statement pointed that the FBI murder statistics do not track assault rifles, but they do show that killing by knife attack is far more common than murder by any kind of rifle.

In California, murder by knife occurs seven times more often than murder by rifle. For example, according to F.B.I. statistics for 2019, California saw 252 people murdered with a knife, while 34 people were killed with some type of rifle — not necessarily an AR-15.

According to the court document, Judge Benitez has also stated that modern rifles have become immensely popular in the United States. Even in California, despite being banned for 20 to 30 years, according to the State’s own evidence, there are 185,569 “assault weapons” currently registered with the state.

Approached for comment on the ruling, Raj Chahal, Vice Mayor of the City of Santa Clara, told indica News: “The ruling by Judge Roger Benitez… further demands that our lawmakers, the Congress and Senate should immediately make common-sense changes to the Second Amendment.”

He said: “Assault weapons do not have a place in our homes and should be off the community neighborhoods. On top of this, it is time that treating mental health should also be the top priority of our government and municipalities. These measures will protect our communities from future mass shootings.”

Sarabjit Kaur Cheema, president of the New Haven Unified School District, Union City, a very close family friend of San Jose VTA shooting victim Taptej Singh, told indica News: “I respect the Second Amendment and individual liberty aspect of the American Constitution, but the most bothering part for me is that Judge Benitez considers the semiautomatic AR-15 rifle same as a Swiss Army knife.

Working together, common-sense gun laws are needed to be enacted to help save lives,” Cheema said. “Also, being the most wealthy nation on the earth, more investments are needed to provide additional resources in education, mental health services and community building opportunities.”

Elk Grove Mayor Bobby Singh Allen also minced no words in reacting to the ruling. “It is a reckless decision that ignores victims, their families, and voters,” Allen told indica News.

I support the Second Amendment and guns,” Allen said. “Reasonable gun control measures are consistent with what our voters expect. I own guns and grew up with them. I support the need to protect our home, family, and friends and the need for hunters. Assault weapons do not further these goals.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom called the judge decision “a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period.”

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