On display at a gun shop in Wendell, N.C., an AR-15 assault rifle manufactured by Core15 Rifle Systems in Dec. 18, 2012. (Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS)

A gun rights group in San Diego sued Thursday to block California from enforcing an assault weapons ban, citing a federal court ruling earlier this year that struck down a state prohibition against high-capacity magazines.

The challenge against California’s firearms laws, which are among the strictest in the country, follows a pair of deadly mass shootings this month involving military-style rifles.

The lawsuit was filed in the same San Diego federal court where District Judge Roger Benitez in March tossed a two-decade-old state ban on the sale and purchase of magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammo.

A custom-made semi-automatic hunting rifle with a detachable magazine, displayed at TDS Guns in Rocklin, Calif.  (AP)

The new lawsuit says the Benitez decision undercuts California’s ban on certain “assault weapons” that can hold large-capacity magazines, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Benitez’s decision triggered a weeklong buying frenzy before he halted sales pending the outcome of a state appeal.

Thursday’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of three San Diego County men and the San Diego County Gun Owners Political Action Committee, The Union-Tribune reported.

The plaintiffs say they own legal rifles or pistols and want to use high-capacity magazines in them but can’t. Doing so, they say, would turn them into illegal assault weapons under California statutes, subject to confiscation.

But as the owners’ lawyer, John Dillon, told the newspaper, if owning such magazines is legal, being able to use them ought to be legal, too.

The lawsuit names state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the head of the state Department of Justice firearms bureau as defendants.

California attorney general, Xavier Becerra. Image credit: The Hill

It likened the term assault weapon to “a politically concocted pejorative term” for weapons lawfully used “in virtually every state,” and argued that California is barring law-abiding citizens from getting, making or transferring “firearms in common use for lawful purposes.”

The lawsuit further asked the court to declare California’s definition of an assault weapon unconstitutional and issue an order permanently barring enforcement of laws that prohibit them based on magazine capacity.


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