Update From Rhode v. Bonta Oral Arguments – YOUR Help Needed!

July 18, 2023

On Monday, CRPA attorneys appeared in San Diego US District Court at the request of District Court Judge Benitez to answer questions about the appropriate next steps in CRPA’s Rhode v. Bonta lawsuit challenging ammunition sales restriction laws that were put in effect by Gavin Newsom’s Prop 63. CRPA already got a win in this case when the Court properly applied the reasoning in the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision and granted CRPA’s request for an injunction blocking enforcement of the ammo sales restrictions several years ago. But that injunction was stayed by the Ninth Circuit when the state appealed the loss, and then the Ninth Circuit court sent the case back down to Judge Benitez to reconsider his ruling in light of the Bruen decision issued by the Supreme Court in June of 2022.

Since the Bruen decision clarified and established a test that is even tougher for the state to pass than the Heller decision was, we expect to win again. But the Rhode case is still at the preliminary injunction phase, so the San Diego Court is pushing the case to a final judgment. Assuming CRPA prevails again, the state’s lawyers will no doubt appeal again.

At the court hearing, the State’s lawyer asked Judge Benitez to allow the State 30 days to submit more declarations from supposed “experts” on the history of background checks and why this new law is historically justified, as the Bruen test requires. So far they haven’t been able to do so, and the Judge expressed skepticism that the State could produce anything new. But the Court nonetheless gave the State 30 days to submit its “new” evidence. CRPA’s legal team will also have a chance to submit their own additional declarations showing what an ongoing disaster California’s ammunition licensing scheme is, and to respond to any declarations that the State files.

This is where we need your help.

The State does not dispute that California’s unworkable ammunition purchasing laws have stopped thousands of people who are legally eligible to buy ammunition from buying it. But, amazingly, the State is now arguing that the case should not move forward because CRPA does not have legal “standing” to challenge the law because its members have not themselves encountered these problems. That’s nonsense, of course. But to assist CRPA in demonstrating how the law continues to block eligible people, particularly CRPA members, from buying ammunition, CRPA needs declarations from members and supporters evidencing any problems you have recently faced when trying to buy ammunition.

To make sure we don’t get sidetracked on this legal issue, it is important that you reach out to CRPA’s lawyers if you have a story of hardship under California’s ammunition sales laws. Contact Attorney Kostas Moros at kmoros@michellawyers.com right away to share your story!

CRPA shares the frustration of our members and gun owners generally that no final rulings were issued Monday. But our lawyers are confident that the hearing was a positive development that will ultimately lead to the vindication of Californians’ Second Amendment rights. Judge Benitez indicated that once the parties have provided the information, he may render a final judgment without further court proceedings. While it is impossible to predict a court’s timeline, Judge Benitez reiterated that “this is an important case” that should move along. A final ruling before the end of summer is a real possibility.

Judge Benitez also assured everyone in court that he is hard at work on decisions in other Second Amendment cases pending before him, including CRPA’s Duncan case challenging the ban on magazines that can hold over 10 rounds, the challenge to the California “assault weapon” law, and a challenge to the state law banning possession of “billy” clubs. The Judge noted that his calendar has been especially busy, but also that he is taking the time to read, and will be addressing in his decisions, every bit of evidence and scholarship submitted in those cases. Considering the different rulings on these issues coming out from other federal courts in other states, we expect the decisions we eventually get will be the most thorough and comprehensive decisions yet issued by any court. This is critical since one of these cases will likely make its way to the Supreme Court where lower court rulings will be closely scrutinized.

Help us help you by telling us about your experiences trying to buy ammunition! And if you aren’t a CRPA member already, join our fight!