A federal appeals court has upheld New York and Connecticut laws banning “assault” weapons and magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Legislatures in those two states passed the laws after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. In a ruling, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals found that the core of the laws, passed in 2013, did not violate the Second Amendment. Gun rights groups, businesses and individuals had filed federal lawsuits to challenge the laws in both states. The district court in New York upheld the main parts of the New York law, while the district court in Connecticut fully upheld that state’s law. The Plaintiffs appealed to the 2nd Circuit. The Second Circuit’s ruling applied to both cases.
The appeals court ruled that although the bans placed a burden on 2nd Amendment rights, each law passed constitutional muster because the laws substantially served an important governmental interest – crime prevention and public safety. The opinion says the state legislatures relied on substantial evidence in passing the laws.
The opinion says that the banned weapons, when used, result in “more numerous wounds, more serious wounds and more victims.” It also says the banned weapons are “disproportionately used to kill law enforcement officers.” The judges found that large capacity magazines are “disproportionately used in mass shootings,” including the one in Connecticut, in which the shooter fired 154 rounds in less than five minutes. The shooter, Adam Lanza, used a semiautomatic Bushmaster AR-15 and 30-round magazines. He killed 20 children and six adults at the school before taking his own life.
The laws define assault weapons as semiautomatic weapons that have any one of a list of military style features, including a telescoping stock, conspicuously protruding pistol grip, bayonet mount, thumbhole stock, flash suppressor and others. The National Rifle Association denounces use of the term “assault” weapon for guns like the AR-15, which it says are among the most popular rifles for home protection. The NRA says magazines holding more than 10 rounds are standard equipment for many rifles and handguns used for self defense. In its decision, the appeals court said there was a “dearth of evidence” that law abiding citizens typically use assault weapons for self-defense. The court ruled against two provisions in the laws – Connecticut’s ban on the Remington 7615, which is not a semiautomatic, and New York’s seven-round load limit.
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