“The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional rights to ‘bear arms.’” That’s the considered opinion of U.S. District Judge William Young in slapping down a challenge to Massachusetts’ reinterpreted “assault weapons” ban.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was sued by a gun-rights group in response to her July 2016 enforcement notice that broadened the definition of “copies or duplicates” of AR-15 and AK-47 models that are prohibited under the state’s 1998 assault-weapon bans.
You may remember that after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016, Healey unilaterally changed the state’s interpretation of what constitutes an “assault weapon.” Her goal was to ban not only standard AR-15 and AK-47 rifles as the law states, but also other versions of the guns that had been redesigned to get around the law’s definition of what constitutes an assault rifle.
So with today’s ruling the court has is saying that Healey’s unilateral decision to ban certain guns that weren’t covered by the original Massachusetts AWB is A-OK. Guns that many in the state have purchased after the ban law passed. Guns that now make them criminals. All with the stroke of her pen.
Maybe you’re wondering on what legal ground did the Judge Young base his opinion. The answer: Antonin Scalia’s Heller ruling.
Young, nominated by former President Ronald Reagan, backed his decision by quoting the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion in a landmark 2008 decision that overturned Washington’s ban on hand guns. The ruling expanded individual gun rights but said the right isn’t unlimited.
“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.
You had to figure Scalia’s opinion limiting the right to keep and bear arms to weapons “in common use at the time” would come back to bite us. And this isn’t the first time.
Hold on, though. It gets worse.
Young also rejected attempts by the gun-rights group to challenge the ban on the grounds that AR-15s are extremely popular in the U.S.
“The AR-15’s present day popularity is not constitutionally material,” Young said. “This is because the words of our Constitution are not mutable. They mean the same today as they did 227 years ago when the Second Amendment was adopted.”
If you’re thinking that the Massachusetts legislature might object to Healey’s power grab as an encroachment on their legislative authority, think again. The state’s legislature is dominated by Democrats, most of whom are thrilled to see stronger gun control at any cost. They’re not about to raise a finger to challenge Healey.
James Campbell, the lawyer for plaintiffs including the Gun Owners’ Action League Inc., didn’t immediately return a call for comment on the ruling. The NRA’s press office didn’t immediately return a call for comment.
The term “assault weapons” is non-technical and “entirely fabricated” to politicize the most popular types of guns in the U.S., according to the gun owners’ complaint.
Huh? How did that last sentence make it into a Bloomberg news piece?
Whatever. You would think this ruling would be a good candidate for a Supreme Court appeal. However the top court has been noticeably hesitant to take any Second Amendment cases in recent years. Could that change if Anthony Kennedy retires as has been rumored? Your guess is as good as ours.