Friday, April 6, 2018

Federal Judge Upholds Massachusetts "Assault Weapons" Ban


        In the U.S. v. Miller case, as you may recall, the issue was whether the National Firearms Act could lawfully restrict ownership of a short-barreled shotgun. The Court ruled that the NFA could since there was no evidence that a short-barreled shotgun was a military weapon. Specifically, the Court concluded:
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense.
United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 178, 59 S. Ct. 816, 818, 83 L. Ed. 1206 (1939). The Heller decision did not overturn Miller. In fact, the Heller court wrote:
This holding [i.e., Miller] is not only consistent with, but positively suggests, that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to keep and bear arms (though only arms that “have some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia”).
D.C. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 622, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 2814, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (2008).

       I don't have a copy of Judge Young's opinion, but the AP article reports:
        The Gun Owners Gun Owners' Action League of Massachusetts and other groups that filed the lawsuit argued that the AR-15 cannot be considered a "military weapon" because it cannot fire in fully automatic mode. 
         But Young dismissed that argument, noting that the semi-automatic AR-15's design 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 wrote.
It seems to me that Young's opinion directly contradicts the holding in Miller, which held that weapons protected by the Second Amendment were weapons of common use or suitable for militia duty, indicating that a weapon that was "part of the ordinary military equipment or [which] use could contribute to the common defense" would be protected. In other words, Miller found the sawed-off shotgun to not be protected because it was NOT a military weapon, but Young has found the AR-15 to not be protected because it IS (in his words) a military weapon.

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