Almost every one of the 79 pages of U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez’s opinion striking down California’s ban on so-called assault weapons contains something worth highlighting and probably deserving of a blog post on its own, and we’ll be doing a deep dive into the decision over the coming days here at Bearing Arms.
One astute reader picked up on an aside from Benitez towards the end of his decision in Miller v. Bonta that’s worth highlighting; his casual dismissal of the “expert” testimony provided to the state of California by Ryan Busse, the onetime gun salesman who became and out and proud gun control advocate in 2020, joining the Biden campaign before taking a role as a senior advisor at Giffords. Busse’s now trying to win the Democratic nomination for governor in Montana, and has been downplaying to the point of absurdity his paid testimony in support of “assault weapon” bans. In fact, he’s even claiming he doesn’t support a gun ban; a ridiculous assertion given his repeated testimony in defense of bans in states like California and Illinois.
Well, Judge Benitez called Busse out on his B.S.
— Zack McCoy 🇺🇸 (@shermantanker) October 19, 2023
Ryan Busse is a Giffords senior advisor and former firearm industry executive for a manufacturer and seller that specializes in pistols and revolvers, but not AR-15 platform rifles. The few rifles sold by his former firm are traditional-style bolt action models. Busse opines that a firearm does not need any of the devices, accessories, or configurations listed in the “assault weapon” ban to operate as a gun as intended or to use a gun effectively for self-defense. It is not at all clear what expertise Busse has to support his opinion. He does not describe any professional experience using AR-15 platform rifles for sport or self-defense. In any event, this type of opinion is not relevant to the question of whether the State may ban a firearm that is commonly owned by law abiding citizens for lawful purposes and does not fit the prerequisites for Federal Rule of Evidence 702.
Busse wasn’t the only “expert” witness for the state of California to come under scrutiny by Benitez. He (rightfully) found major issues with economist Lucy Allen’s claim that “assault weapons” are almost never used for self-defense, and called out law professor John Donahue as well, calling his supplemental declaration “not particularly helpful.”
For example, professor Donohue describes a 2018 medical study published on the JAMA Network Open about 511 gunshot victims in Boston. He opines that the study “applies directly to bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.” Yet, the study noted that only one of the 511 victims studied was shot with a rifle caliber round (7.62 x 39 mm.). Why the study applies directly to bans on “assault weapons,” as professor Donohue opines, is not at all obvious. Handgun wounds were the main point of study.
Professor Donohue also opines that the dangers of weapons like the AR-15 will outpace any legitimate crime-reducing benefit the firearms provide, citing the 2017 Sutherland Springs Baptist Church shooting. He picked an ironic example. A neighbor, Stephen Willeford, stopped the mass shooter in that tragedy with four shots from his own AR-15.
Professor Donohue previously commented on the lawful-to-own Ruger Mini-14 rifle which is similar to the banned rifles. He offered that the Mini-14’s current legality is because the firearm restrictions are to be increased “incrementally.” He concludes with abject conjecture imagining the January 6, 2021 Capitol rally would have turned out like the 1970 Kent State University shootings, but for the District of Columbia’s prohibition on “assault weapons.” Professor Donohue’s opinions are entitled to no weight.
That’s gotta sting.
I doubt Ryan Busse is going to be highlighting his “citation” by Judge Benitez out on the campaign trail, but if he does somehow manage to become the Democratic candidate I’m sure Montanans will be reminded of it in ads targeting his gubernatorial bid and a barrage of social media posts from Second Amendment supporters throughout the country. Busse’s “expert” opinion has already been rendered irrelevant by a federal judge, and Montana voters will do the same for his political career next year.