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A federal judge who previously overturned California’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons did it again on Thursday, ruling that the state’s attempts to prohibit sales of semiautomatic guns violates the constitutional right to bear arms.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego conceded that powerful weapons like AR-15 rifles are commonly used by criminals, but said the guns are importantly also owned by people who obey the law and feel they need firearms to protect themselves.

“The State of California posits that its ‘assault weapon’ ban, the law challenged here, promotes an important public interest of disarming some mass shooters even though it makes criminals of law-abiding residents who insist on acquiring these firearms for self-defense,” Benitez wrote. “Nevertheless, more than that is required to uphold a ban.”

The judge’s ruling is nearly identical to a 2021 decision in which he called California’s ban on assault weapons a “failed experiment.” Benitez has has repeatedly struck down multiple California firearms laws. Just last month, he ruled the state cannot ban gun owners from having detachable magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

Benitez’s latest decision would overturn multiple state statutes related to assault weapons. The judge gave the state 10 days to seek a stay on the ruling as part of an appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said his office had already filed a notice of appeal.

“Weapons of war have no place on California’s streets,” Bonta said in a statement Thursday. “This has been state law in California for decades, and we will continue to fight for our authority to keep our citizens safe from firearms that cause mass casualties. In the meantime, assault weapons remain unlawful for purchase, transfer, or possession in California.”

John Dillon, an attorney for the plaintiffs who sued to overturn the law, cheered the judge’s ruling.



The Supreme Court on Monday ordered two internet sellers of gun parts to comply with a Biden administration regulation aimed at ghost guns, firearms that are difficult to trace because they lack serial numbers.

The court had intervened once before, by a 5-4 vote in August, to keep the regulation in effect after it had been invalidated by a lower court. No justice dissented publicly from Monday’s order, which followed a ruling from a federal judge in Texas that exempted the two companies, Blackhawk Manufacturing Group and Defense Distributed, from having to abide by the regulation of ghost gun kits.

Other makers of gun parts also had been seeking similar court orders, the administration told the Supreme Court in a filing.

“Absent relief from this Court, therefore, untraceable ghost guns will remain widely available to anyone with a computer and a credit card — no background check required,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, wrote.

The regulation changed the definition of a firearm under federal law to include unfinished parts, like the frame of a handgun or the receiver of a long gun, so they can be tracked more easily. Those parts must be licensed and include serial numbers. Manufacturers must also run background checks before a sale - as they do with other commercially made firearms.

The requirement applies regardless of how the firearm was made, meaning it includes ghost guns made from individual parts or kits or by 3D printers.

The regulation will be in effect while the administration appeals the judge’s ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans — and potentially the Supreme Court.



The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the procedural vote that allowed Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ education overhaul to take effect immediately, rejecting a judge’s ruling that threw into question the way state laws have been fast-tracked into enforcement over the years.

The state Supreme Court’s 6-1 decision has no effect on the education law that the Republican governor signed in March and is already in effect. The law created a new school voucher program, raised minimum teacher salaries and placed restrictions on classroom instruction pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity before the fifth grade.

But the ruling rejects the argument that the Legislature violated the state constitution with its votes for the measure to take effect immediately. Opponents of the law argued that the emergency clause for the law, which requires a two-thirds vote, should have been taken up separately from the legislation. Lawmakers commonly vote on a bill and its emergency clause at the same time.

Justices ruled that this approach for the education law was constitutional, noting that the votes are recorded separately in House and Senate journals.

“The House Journal indicates a separate roll call and vote for the emergency clause. Likewise, the Senate Journal indicates a separate roll call and vote for the emergency clause,” Justice Barbara Webb wrote in the ruling. “Thus, according to the official record, the emergency clause was passed in compliance with article 5, section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution.”

Sanders, who took office in January, hailed the ruling.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of the LEARNS Act is a historic victory for Arkansas parents, teachers, and students,” she posted on X, formerly Twitter, calling the ruling a “crushing defeat” for opponents of the law.

Ali Noland, an attorney for the plaintiffs who challenged the law, criticized the court’s decision and said the lawsuit was moot for two months since the overhaul was already in effect.

“Today’s Arkansas Supreme Court ruling makes it much harder for Arkansans to hold their government accountable for willfully violating the Arkansas Constitution,” Noland said in a statement.

Justices in June lifted the Pulaski County judge’s order that blocked enforcement of the law. Without the emergency clause, the law wouldn’t have taken effect until August.



President Joe Biden’s second attempt at student loan cancellation began moving forward Tuesday with a round of hearings to negotiate the details of a new plan.

In a process known as negotiated rulemaking, 14 people chosen by the Biden administration are meeting for the first of three hearings on student loan relief. Their goal is to guide the Education Department toward a proposal after the Supreme Court rejected Biden’s first plan in June.

The negotiators all come from outside the federal government and represent a range of viewpoints on student loans. The panel includes students and officials from a range of colleges, along with loan servicers, state officials and advocates including the NAACP.

In opening remarks, Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal said the student debt crisis has threatened to undercut the promise of higher education.

“Student loan debt in this country has grown so large that it siphons off the benefits of college for many students,” Kvaal said in prepared remarks. “Some loans made to young adults stretch into retirement with no hope of being repaid. These debt burdens are shared by families and communities.”

Biden directed the Education Department to find another path to loan relief after the conservative court ruled that he couldn’t cancel loans using a 2003 law called the HEROES Act.

The latest attempt will rest on a sweeping law known as the Higher Education Act, which gives the education secretary authority to waive student loans — although how far that power extends is the subject of legal debate. The department is going through the negotiated rulemaking process to change or add federal rules clarifying how the secretary can cancel debt.



The ex-campaign treasurer for U.S. Rep. George Santos is scheduled to enter a guilty plea to an unspecified felony in connection with the sprawling federal investigation of financial irregularities surrounding the indicted New York Republican, prosecutors say.

Nancy Marks is a veteran Long Island political operative. Marks served as the campaign treasurer and close aide to Santos during his two congressional bids. Marks resigned amid growing questions about Santos’ campaign finances and revelations Santos had fabricated much of his life story.

Marks’ plea is scheduled to take place in a Central Islip courtroom on Thursday afternoon. It comes as Santos faces a 13-count federal indictment centered on charges of money laundering and lying to Congress in an earlier financial disclosure.

The investigation of the first-term congressman has also engulfed Marks, a key behind-the-scenes figure in Long Island Republican politics who built a business as a treasurer and consultant to dozens of local, state and federal candidates.

Marks has faced questions about the congressman’s unusual campaign filings, including a series of $199.99 expenses, just below the legal limit for disclosure. Santos, in turn, has sought to pin the blame for his unexplained finances on Marks, who he claims “went rogue” without his knowledge.

Any deal with prosecutors that requires Marks to testify in the case against Santos could be a severe blow to the Republican, who faces charges that he embezzled money from his campaign, lied in financial disclosures submitted to Congress and received unemployment funds when he wasn’t eligible.

While Santos has admitted fabricating key parts about his purported background as a wealthy, well-educated businessman, questions remain about what he did for work, as well as the true source of more than $700,000 he initially claimed to have loaned his campaign from his own personal fortune.

Santos has pleaded not guilty to charges he duped donors, stole from his campaign and lied to Congress about being a millionaire, all while cheating to collect unemployment benefits he didn’t deserve. He has defied calls to resign.

A formal complaint filed by the Campaign Legal Center with the Federal Election Committee alleges that unknown groups may have illegally funneled money into the Santos campaign. The complaint, filed last January, named Marks along with Santos.



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