A judge in Massachusetts on Friday ruled against a lawsuit that questioned the state’s ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, declaring that the weapons were not protected by the Second Amendment.
Assault weapons are considered to be military firearms, U.S. District Judge William Young said in his ruling, therefore disqualifying them from being included in a citizen’s right to “bear arms.”
Policy makers, rather than the courts, were better suited to decide on the regulation for the weapons, he said.
“Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens,” Young said in his ruling. “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 lawsuit was filed against state Attorney General Maura Healey last year by the Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts, among other parties, who claimed that AR-15s couldn’t be considered a “military weapon” because of their inability to shoot in fully automatic mode. They also claimed the ban infringed on Second Amendment rights.
That notion was ruled out, however, as the judge pointed out that the design of semi-automatic AR-15’s is based on guns “that were first manufactured for military purposes” and that the AR-15 is “common and well-known in the military.”
“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,'” Young said.
The decision was championed by Healey, who said the judge’s decision “vindicates the right of the people of Massachusetts to protect themselves from these weapons of war and my office’s efforts to enforce the law.”
“Strong gun laws save lives,” she continued “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. Families across the country should take heart in this victory.”
The ruling in Massachusetts follows an ongoing debate about AR-15s, due in part to their use in shootings such as the violent spree in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day that left 17 people were dead. Authorities said the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15 during the deadly assault.
Young also upheld Healey’s 2016 enforcement notice to gun sellers and manufacturers clarifying what constitutes a “copy” or “duplicate” weapon under the 1998 assault weapon ban, including copies of the Colt AR-15 and the Kalashnikov AK-47.
The Massachusetts assault weapons ban mirrors the federal ban that expired in 2004. It bans the sale of specific and name-brand weapons and explicitly bans copies or duplicates of those weapons.