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U.S. appeals court puts on hold overturning of California assault weapon ban

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(Reuters) - A U.S. federal appeals court on Monday put on hold a judge's ruling this month to overturn California's 32-year-old ban on assault weapons. 

  A three-judge panel in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez's June 4 order, after California officials had appealed the federal judge's decision to strike down the ban on assault-style weapons. 

  California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who had appealed against the decision to overturn the ban, said the state's assault weapons laws would remain in effect while appellate proceedings continue. 

  "We won't stop defending these life-saving laws," Bonta said https://bit.ly/3xFCQ6q on Twitter. 

  Benitez, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, had overturned the ban, describing it as a "failed experiment" and prompting scathing criticism from the state's governor and attorney general. 

  In the order, Benitez had said the California ban was in violation of the Second Amendment rights of the state's citizens. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees citizens the right to bear arms. 

  Gun control is a politically divisive subject in the United States, which has for decades experienced a significant number of deadly mass shootings at schools and other public places. 

  California's prohibition on the sale of assault weapons since 1989 was challenged in a 2019 lawsuit against the state's attorney general by plaintiffs including James Miller, a state resident, and San Diego County Gun Owners, a political action committee. 

  California became the first state to ban assault weapons in 1989 after a school shooting that killed five children. Six other states and the District of Columbia have an assault weapons ban in place, according to the gun safety group Giffords. 

  The 9th Circuit judges on the panel issuing the stay were Barry Silverman, an appointee of former president Bill Clinton; Jacqueline Nguyen, a Barack Obama appointee; and Ryan Nelson, an appointee of Donald Trump. 

  (Reporting by Radhika Anilkumar and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru) 

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