Another legal challenge to California gun laws has just been ruled on by U.S. District Court Judge William Hayes. This particular law was passed in 2019 to take effect in 2021 which stated in a 30-day period someone can only begin the process of purchasing one handgun, or one semi-automatic center fire rifle. The appeal began in 2020 before the law went into effect, and has now been ruled unconstitutional at the District Court level, before you get too excited, the decision has been stayed for 30 days. I find some cruel irony that the “1 in 30” law was stayed for 30 days.

Back Ground

Before he was Governor, Gavin Newsom was Attorney General of California under Jerry Brown, more affectionately known as Governor Moonbeam. Brown managed to serve four total terms as Governor by serving two before California passed the two-term limit, and two terms after. Newsom was elected in 2018, and appointed Bonta Attorney General in 2021. As Attorney Generals both Newsom and Bonta were outspoken proponents for gun control and responsible for several gun control bills.

The state cited the purpose of the “1 in 30” law is to prevent what is known as “Straw man purchases,” this is when someone purchases a firearm for another who cannot buy it themselves. In California that could be anyone convicted of a felony, violent misdemeanor, has a restraining order against them, or one filed against them even if it has not gone to court, anyone under the age of 21, anyone on California’s “Prohibited persons list,” etc. At the time this law went into effect you could still purchase a handgun and a rimfire rifle, shotgun, or non-semi auto rifle in the same month, however this was changed at the beginning of 2024. Incremental steps…

The basis of the law is where the argument begins to come unraveled. Why would limiting the number of firearms purchases in a month/per year prevent someone from assisting in a strawman purchase?

The law was challenged by Mr. Nguyen, and several other individuals as well as the FPC, San Deigo Count Gun Owners PAC, and Second Amendment Foundation. The assertion was the individuals’ 2nd Amendment rights were violated because the right to keep and bear arms inherently included the right to acquire them. Moreover, that their 14th Amendment rights were also violated under “equal protection under the law.”

After the Bruen decision in 2022 both parties were required to submit a supplemental brief for the case in light of the new decision. Ultimately the State’s motion for a Summary Judgement was granted in January 2024. A summary judgement is a request for the case to be heard and ruled on, its usually only something you do if you are confident.

Ultimately Hon. Judge Hayes ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and the law unconstitutional, let’s get into why.

Post Bruen, all 2nd Amendment related laws must be consistent with the “Text, history, and Tradition” of the country, with the burden of proof falling on the State when a law is challenged. Previous burdens of proof only had to meet ‘compelling interest of the state.’ Now the state must prove that the law does in fact have historic analogs, regardless of state interest. It is a further step to protect Constitutional rights across the board.

State’s Historical Analogs

The first law California cited was also used in the Rhodes v. Bonta, Assault Weapons Ban, and Handgun Roster appeals is the 1783 Massachusetts gunpowder storage law, which limited the amount of gunpowder that could be stored in one place. For background, this law was enacted after a fire swept through Boston, and hit a place where a lot of gunpowder was stored. The law also noted this applied to “Cannons, Swivels, Mortars, Howitzers,” meaning people actually owned these.

As with other appeals, this law was not considered an acceptable analog to limiting how many, and what type of guns someone can buy at one time.

There were several other laws thrown in that were also considered unacceptable, but I want to get to the heart of a major issue the state put forth.

Restrictions on the Sale of Firearms to Native Americans

I was deeply disturbed and disappointed to see the state cited several laws that restricted firearm ownership from Native Americans to support their case, which can be read on pages 20-21 of the decision.

This includes a 1723 Connecticut law that prevented lending guns or powder specifically to Native Americans. A Virginia law prevented settlers from carrying more than one firearm and 10 rounds if they were going near Native villages (In the event they were killed and the gun taken). Federal laws that also limited access of firearms and ammunition to Natives, and a Maryland law as well.

Hon. Judge Hayes stated the following in response:

“It is unclear whether it is permissible to rely on laws that, due to race or ethnicity-based classifications, “would be unconstitutional today.””

There are two takeaways from this:

  1. California cited laws that were discriminatory on a matter of race and considered Unconstitutional (14th Amendment) because the laws discriminate against a protected class (Race), to support their position.
  2. California literally used these laws to justify what the state is enforcing. Using something to support an argument is in effect agreeing with the supporting information.

Take Aways

Bonta’s assertion “merely limits individuals to the purchase of one handgun or semiautomatic centerfire rifle every thirty days directly from licensed firearm dealers,” and “does not prevent anyone from acquiring firearms for self defense, keeping them for those purposes, and bearing the firearms for confrontation.” Hon. Judge Hayes cited Supreme Court precedence that a right does not need to be completely violated to have been infringed upon.

Many of the recent court decisions have come from Hon. Judge Benitez who Newsom has called “A right wing zealot with no regard for human life” and his rulings “A disgusting slap in the face.” This decision is different coming from Hon. Judge Hayes, which is significant because it send a clear message that it is not one judge solely overturning California’s gun control laws.

While it is incredibly likely the state will appeal, these cases will continue to happen, up to the highest court until the state stops fighting. It may not be a victory we will get to enjoy (Or monetarily afford to enjoy) for some years, it is a victory nonetheless.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.