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NRA announces legal challenge to California's expanded assault weapon ban and other new gun laws

An AR-15 semiautomatic assault-style rifle. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press)
An AR-15 semiautomatic assault-style rifle. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

The state affiliate of the National Rifle Assn. on Monday filed the first of a series of planned lawsuits against a package of gun control bills approved in California last year, including one challenging the state's newly expanded assault weapons ban.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a prohibition on the sale of semiautomatic rifles equipped with bullet-buttons that allow for the quick removal and replacement of ammunition magazines.

The first lawsuit will be filed late Monday in federal court in Santa Ana by the California Rifle and Pistol Assn., the state affiliate of the NRA  , and asks the courts to declare the expanded assault weapon law unconstitutional.

“It criminalizes possession of firearms which are commonly possessed for lawful purposes by law-abiding citizens for self- defense or shooting sports,” said Chuck Michel, a Long Beach attorney for the gun rights groups.

The legislation, and other bills including a ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines, were approved by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature in response to a 2015 terrorist shooting in San Bernardino in which weapons including AR-15 rifles were used to kill 14 people attending a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center.

But the new law “will do nothing to stop terrorists or violent criminals, and infringes on the right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment," the groups argued in a statement Monday.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) led the effort to get the gun bills passed and predicted Monday they would withstand any legal challenge.

“Background checks and other guns laws California has enacted have saved lives and are key in making our mortality rate one of the lowest in the nation,” de León said in a statement. “I am confident that the courts will reject the NRA’s arguments,  just as our voters did in November, and uphold California’s right to implement common-sense policies to protect its people. ”

Michel said the NRA plans five lawsuits challenging new gun laws in California, including one next week that will seek to invalidate a ban on the possession of ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets.

The groups waited to file the lawsuits until Republican President Trump began appointing judges to the federal bench, including Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed last week for the U.S. Supreme Court.

UPDATED AT 3:55 pm to include comment from Senate leader Kevin de León.

Updated at 5:40 pm to reflect that the lawsuit has been filed.

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