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Judge pauses Colorado town’s assault rifle ban, passed in the wake of mass shooting

The town of Superior banned assault rifles in 2021 after a man killed 10 people at a nearby grocery store armed with a Ruger AR-556.

(CN) — A federal judge on Friday temporarily suspended an assault rifle ban passed by the town of Superior, Colorado, in the wake of a mass shooting last year.

Gun rights organizations Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the National Association for Gun Rights joined Superior resident Charles Walker in suing the town on July 7 claiming Second and Fourteenth Amendment violations.

"The court concludes that plaintiffs have a strong likelihood of success on the merits,” wrote U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore in a 19-page opinion.

“Plaintiffs have stated that semiautomatic weapons, as well as magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, are commonly used by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes,” the Barack Obama appointee explained.

Home to 13,292 people in Boulder County, the town of Superior is about 20 miles northwest of Denver. The town passed the rules in the wake of a man killing 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder with a Ruger AR-556 in March 2021. The suspect was found incompetent to stand trial at a hearing Thursday.

“The court is sympathetic to the town’s stated reasoning," Moore wrote. "However, the court is unaware of historical precedent that would permit a governmental entity to entirely ban a type of weapon that is commonly used by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, whether in an individual’s home or in public."

The rules went into effect on July 1, prohibiting the possession and sale of illegal weapons within town limits, defined as “an assault weapon, large-capacity magazine, rapid-fire trigger activator, blackjack, gas gun, metallic knuckles, gravity knife or switchblade knife.”

Superior described several characteristics that would make a semiautomatic rifle be considered an "assault rifle," including the presence of a pistol grip, folding stock and flash suppressor.

While residents were given until July 30 to dispose of illegal weapons, the rule also allows individuals who owned the banned firearms before July 1 to undergo a background check and obtain a certificate to legally retain possession.

Moore cited the Supreme Court's June opinion in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen that found “the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect the right of ‘ordinary, law-abiding citizens’ to ‘carry handguns publicly for self-defense.'"

In light of the fact the number of AR- and AK-style weapons sold in the U.S. were more than twice the number of Ford F-150s — the most commonly driven vehicle in the country — the Fourth Circuit previously acknowledged tens of millions of Americans lawfully own the controversial semiautomatic weapon.

"The court concludes, therefore, that the conduct regulated by this provision of the amended code, the right to possess, sell, or transfer illegal weapons, (which, as defined, include weapons commonly used by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes), is covered, at least in part, by the Second Amendment, and therefore that conduct is presumptively protected,” Moore wrote.

The restraining order will remain in effect through a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for Aug. 4.

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