Attorney General Platkin Co-Leads Friend of the Court Brief to Uphold States’ Rights to Limit Assault Weapons

Assault Weapons are Not Protected by the Second Amendment Because They are Not Commonly Used for Self-Defense, 20 Attorneys General Argue in Multistate Filing

For Immediate Release: December 11, 2023

Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General

For Further Information:

Media Inquiries-
Allison Inserro,

Amicus Brief

TRENTON  New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, together with Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell, co-led a coalition of 18 other attorneys general to support the State of California’s assault weapons ban. The coalition filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, arguing that California’s regulation of the purchase and possession of assault weapons is consistent with the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

“States have the absolute right and duty to protect the public from the violence and chaos created by assault weapons,” said Attorney General Platkin. “No civilian needs access to an assault weapon in order to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Common sense tells us that our dedicated law enforcement officers are safer as well when they are not confronted with the horrible reality that is all-too real in states where these destructive weapons are permissible.”

The case, Miller v. Bonta, concerns the constitutionality of California’s assault weapons ban. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California issued a preliminary injunction against California’s Assault Weapons Control Act, and California has appealed the decision. The Ninth Circuit has stayed the lower court’s preliminary injunction while it considers California’s appeal, allowing the law to remain in effect for now.

In the amicus brief, the attorneys general argue three ways that California’s assault weapons ban is a constitutionally permissible restriction.

  1. To encourage public safety, states can and do impose restrictions on dangerous weapons, accessories, and ammunition that pose a threat to communities: States have widely adopted reasonable restrictions on the public carry, possession, and sale of many types of weapons, accessories, and forms of ammunition that are not suitable for self-defense and undermine the public’s safety. Semiautomatic assault weapons, such as AR-15 and AK-47-style rifles, fall into this category. They inflict catastrophic injuries and are uniquely devastating in mass shootings. Common-sense assault weapons restrictions are intended to reduce these senseless injuries and deaths.
  1. Assault weapons are not protected by the Second Amendment because they are not commonly used or suitable for self-defense: The District Court overlooked the abundance of incontrovertible evidence that assault weapons were designed and engineered for military combat, and to create as many devastating injuries and deaths in as short a time period as possible.
  1. California’s assault weapons ban is consistent with a historical tradition of regulating and imposing restrictions on new and distinctively dangerous forms of weaponry: There is longstanding tradition of firearm regulation that supports California’s prohibition. For example, historical gunpowder storage laws and other rules and regulations were explicitly intended to prevent threats to public safety by limiting the aggregation of arsenals far beyond what would be sufficient for self-defense. States and the federal government have long had to adopt laws and regulations to cope with new weapons technologies that create public safety threats if there is no valid purpose for their usage in self-defense.

Last month, Attorneys General Platkin and Campbell co-led an amicus brief in a similar case, supporting California’s efforts to restrict the capacity of large-capacity magazines within its borders. The amicus brief for Miller v. Bonta was joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.