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Federal Appeals Court Rejects Challenge to Massachusetts Assault Weapons Ban

“The interests of state and local governments in regulating the possession and use of such weapons are entitled to great weight,” the ruling stated

assault weapons lined up on a table at a gun show

What are commonly referred to as assault weapons on display and for sale at the Virginia Gun Show.

REX/Shutterstock

In the absence of any meaningful action from Washington to address the increase in American mass shootings involving assault weapons, some states, like Massachusetts, have taken measures of their own to ban high-capacity guns within their borders. And a recent ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a legal challenge to just such a ban, confirming that citizens on the state level have the right to determine which guns will be allowed, the Boston Globe reported.

“This case concerns an issue of paramount importance,” the ruling said. “In the wake of increasingly frequent acts of mass violence committed with semiautomatic assault weapons and [large-capacity magazines], the interests of state and local governments in regulating the possession and use of such weapons are entitled to great weight.”

It also stated that there is “ample evidence of the unique dangers posed by the proscribed weapons.”

The First Circuit’s ruling was an affirmation of an earlier ruling by a lower court which dismissed a lawsuit opposing the ban filed by the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, made up of gun advocates and retailers.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey released a statement on Twitter in reaction to the ruling, saying, “In a defeat for the gun lobby and a victory for families everywhere, the First Circuit has upheld the Massachusetts assault weapons ban. Once again, the courts have agreed that the people of our state have the right to protect themselves by banning these deadly weapons.”

The state banned assault weapons in 1998, but after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, Attorney General Healey conducted a review that determined gun manufacturers had long been ignoring the law and marketing and selling copycat versions of high capacity, assault-style guns like the AK-47 and AR-15 in Massachusetts. So, Healey issued a notice instructing the manufacturers to stop selling “copycat” guns in the state, prompting the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts to file suit against her in 2017.

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