Boston, MA— A lawsuit challenging Massachusetts’ ban on assault weapons was dismissed by a federal judge on April 5, who asserted in his ruling that military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, banned by the state in 1998, are “not within the scope of the personal right to ‘bear Arms’ under the Second Amendment.”
“The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional right to ‘bear arms,’” U.S. District Judge William Young wrote in the decision.
Young said in his ruling that the features of a military-style rifle are “designed and intended to be particularly suitable for combat rather than sporting applications,” and that Massachusetts was within its rights to enact a ban through elected representatives.
“In the absence of federal legislation, Massachusetts is free to ban these weapons and large capacity magazines. Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens,” Young wrote. “These policy matters are simply not of constitutional moment. Americans are not afraid of bumptious, raucous, and robust debate about these matters. We call it democracy.”
The Hill reported that the lawsuit dismissed by Young was filed by the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, which claimed the ban infringed on Second Amendment rights. The group asserted in its complaint that the term “assault weapons” is non-technical and “entirely fabricated” to politicize the most popular types of guns in the United States.
“Healey unilaterally decreed that thousands of Massachusetts residents are suddenly criminals simply for having exercised their Second Amendment rights,” the complaint said, in reference to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who expanded in 2016 the definition of “copies or duplicates” of AR-15s and other semiautomatic rifles that are prohibited under the state’s 1998 assault-weapon ban.
In a statement, the National Rifle Association (NRA) criticized the decision.
“Like all law-abiding Massachusetts gun owners, the NRA was extremely disappointed that the court upheld Massachusetts’s ban on many of the most popular firearms in America,” the group said.
In his decision, Young, who Bloomberg reports was nominated by former President Ronald Reagan, quoted the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court in a critical 2008 decision that overturned Washington’s ban on hand guns, but also warned of potential limitations.
“Weapons that are most useful in military service — M-16 rifles and the like” aren’t protected by the Second Amendment and “may be banned,” Young quoted Scalia as saying, referring to the automatic rifle popular with the military. The AR-15 is similar to an M-16, Young said, equating the military fully automatic firearm with a civilian semi-automatic.
In addition, Young also rejected attempts by the gun-rights group to challenge the ban on the grounds that AR-15s are extremely popular and widely owned within the United States.
“The AR-15’s present day popularity is not constitutionally material,” Young said.