BOSTON (CN) – Upholding Massachusetts’ 20-year ban on assault weapons, a federal judge found Thursday that such firearms fall outside the scope of protection by 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 his 47-page ruling.
“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.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, one of the defendants in the underlying complaint, celebrated the ruling in a Facebook statement Friday.
“Strong gun laws save lives, and we will not be intimidated by the gun lobby in our efforts to end the sale of assault weapons and protect our communities and schools,” the Democrat wrote. “Families across the country should take heart in this victory.”
Gun dealers and owners, as well as other Second Amendment advocates including the Gun Owners’ Action League, Inc., On Target Training and Overwatch Outpost, challenged the state ban in January 2017 complaint. They alleged Massachusetts state officials, including Healey, Governor Charles Baker and the police, “vastly expanded Massachusetts’ prohibition to ban an entire class of popular firearms commonly kept for lawful purposes.”
The plaintiffs argued their Second and 14th Amendment rights allowed them to own and sell high-capacity magazines and rifles like the AK-47 and AR-15, and that the ban forced some of them to lose income.
“Massachusetts effectively bans the acquisition of the most popular rifles in the nation,” their complaint said.
Massachusetts enacted the law in 1998, making it a crime to sell or possess “a number of assault weapons,” including AR-15s and copycat weapons.
One of the toughest gun-control measures in the country, the law came into place after Congress passed the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act in 1994, aiming to decrease the spread of assault and military-style weapons over the next 10 years.
Since the Massachusetts ban covered copycat weapons as well, Young found Thursday that the plaintiffs had failed to show “arbitrary” or “discriminatory” enforcement against copycat weapons.
He concluded on a note that reflected the heat of the gun debate in the U.S., especially following the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead.
“Americans are not afraid of bumptious, raucous, and robust debate about these matters,” the decision states. “We call it democracy.”
The Gun Owners Action League did not answer a phone call for comment Friday.
They were represented in the case by the Boston firm Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy and by the Washington firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings.
Overwatch Outpost and On Target Training referred Courthouse News to their attorneys, none of whom immediately returned requests for comment.