Yuba City Sikh says assault weapons ban infringes on his faith
The sword of dharma isn't enough for a Yuba City man who filed a federal lawsuit against California on Tuesday claiming the state is infringing on his Sikh religion by not allowing him to own and use an assault rifle.
Gursant Singh Khalsa, a follower of Sikh faith for 35 years, filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Sacramento claiming the state is preventing him from fully practicing his religion by restricting his possession and use of assault rifles and high capacity magazines.
"I definitely intend to fight it," he said. "I'm not just doing it for fun."
Khalsa said he needs the assault rifles and high capacity magazines to properly defend himself and protect others — actions that cannot be accomplished with California's gun laws.
The idea to sue the state for infringing on his religion has been on Khalsa's mind since he moved here from New Mexico, where gun laws aren't as strict, he said.
"It really started to dawn on me just how much of a disadvantage California residents are," Khalsa said.
According to the lawsuit, hate crime attacks in the nation have accelerated because people see Sikhs' turbans and mistake them for Taliban members.
Yuba City resident Harjeet Singh, a software engineer and member of the Punjabi American Heritage Society, said Sikhs are required to have weapons, but that doesn't necessarily mean they should carry assault rifles.
"In my personal opinion," he said, "I don't think you need an assault rifle to protect yourself."
Many Sikhs abide by a code of conduct that requires followers to possess weapons for self-defense, Singh said, but the code can be broad and interpreted in several ways. For this reason, Singh said Khalsa isn't wrong for filing a lawsuit against California because Khalsa is interpreting the code in a broad sense.
Khalsa said he thinks all Californians should fight the assault rifle and high capacity magazine ban, and that teaching gun safety should be a priority.
"If you learn how to fire weapons and respect them, they are nothing more than a tool," he said.
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