A federal judge in Massachusetts favorably cited Justice Antonin Scalia in upholding the commonwealth’s gun control law.
Judge William Young of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, a Ronald Reagan appointee, issued the decision Thursday. He concluded the ruling by asserting Scalia would approve of the deferential notes the opinion strikes.
“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,'” the ruling reads. “Both their general acceptance and their regulation, if any, are policy matters not for the courts but left to the people directly through their elected representatives.”
“Justice Scalia would be proud,” it adds.
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Scalia wrote the 2008 D.C. v. Heller decision, which secured the individual right to possess guns in the home for self-defense. The ruling does say that certain gun regulations pass constitutional muster, but it is not specific as to how far such laws might extend. Heller’s purposeful vagueness has been a boon to gun control advocates, who favorably cite its passages to argue for the legality of a range of firearms restrictions.
Young called Scalia’s Heller opinion a “tour de force example of his original meaning jurisprudence.” Other commentators across the ideological spectrum have criticized an opinion they call compromised and intentionally imprecise.
Scalia was an avid hunter and firearm owner. He was visiting a hunting ranch in west Texas when he died in February 2016.
The Massachusetts law at issue bans the possession of assault weapons, including the AR-15. A coalition of gun rights groups challenged the law, arguing it violates the Second Amendment.
In upholding the restrictions, Young explained that states are free to regulate magazine size and certain classes of weapons in the absence of federal legislation addressing these subjects.
In Heller’s aftermath, most federal courts have applied a two-part test to assess the legality of gun control measures. The inquiry asks whether the law burdens activity protected by the Second Amendment. If so, they must determine how aggressive their scrutiny of the law should be.
A number of federal appellate courts have used Heller to uphold state gun control measures. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s 10-day waiting period on all firearms purchases in 2016. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also cited Heller in upholding Maryland’s assault weapons ban.
“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,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy said after the ruling.
The decision may be appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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