In an opinion by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a Ninth Circuit panel upheld amendments to California’s gun control laws that significantly strengthened the state’s restrictions on the possession, use, and transfer of assault weapons. The court reached this conclusion by reasoning that the Second Amendment does not grant any individual right to own or possess any firearms.
This case is activist because the judges strained the plain text of the Constitution to achieve apparent desired ends, bending a specific term to the point of breaking; the majority twisted the language in order to nullify a right to which the judges were personally opposed. In a dissenting opinion from the denial of rehearing en banc, Judge Andrew Kleinfeld incisively observes how the activist majority’s misreading of the Second Amendment not only erases the right it was meant to protect, but endangers the rest of the Bill of Rights as well:
About twenty percent of the American population, those who live in the Ninth Circuit, have lost one of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. And, the methodology used to take away the right threatens the rest of the Constitution. The most extraordinary step taken by the panel opinion is to read the frequently used Constitutional phrase, “the people,” as conferring rights only upon collectives, not individuals. I cannot imagine the judges on the panel similarly repealing the Fourth Amendment's protection of the right of “the people” to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures…but times and personnel change, so that this right and all the other rights of “the people” are jeopardized by planting this weed in our Constitutional garden.
In the case of D.C. v. Heller, the Supreme Court rejected the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning, holding that there is an individual right to keep and bear arms.