Court Says It’s Still Illegal to Own a Semiautomatic Assault Weapon in New York and Connecticut

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Semi Automatic Guns
Photo: Julie Dermansky/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

Gun-control initiatives banning the possession of semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines were upheld by a federal appeals court Monday.

The gun-control measures, put into law in New York and Connecticut after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, were upheld by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan. During the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six teachers, more than 154 rounds were fired in less than five minutes, according to the Associated Press.

When used, these weapons tend to result in more numerous wounds, more serious wounds, and more victims,” circuit judge José Cabranes wrote in his ruling. “These weapons are disproportionately used in crime, and particularly in criminal mass shootings.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo praised the decision. “This case validates a simple, fundamental truth about gun control,” Cuomo said in a statement. “That it is possible to have strong laws that keep our communities safe, while at the same time respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.” He added, “New York has set the example – and it’s far past time for Washington to follow suit and pass a sensible national gun control policy.”

The group of plaintiffs appealing the case — several gun-rights groups and gun sellers — argued that mass shootings were rare and wouldn’t be deterred through gun-control laws. But the three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court disagreed, noting, “That may be so, but gun-control legislation ‘need not strike at all evils at the same time’ to be constitutional.”

But will other states follow suit?

California is gearing up to tighten its gun laws in 2016 by restricting ammo sales and requiring owners to turn in assault-style magazines, and a group in Maine hopes to vote on requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales next November.

New York and Connecticut gun-rights activists are expected to keep fighting while keeping their eye on a similar case in the Chicago suburbs of Oakland Park, where gun owners will be challenging a ban on assault weapons in front of the Supreme Court.