Monday, April 9, 2018
Judge William G. Young (D. Mass.) last week rejected a Second Amendment challenge to Massachusetts's assault weapon ban. Judge Young held that covered rifles fell outside the Second Amendment and thus enjoyed no constitutional protection.
The case, Workman v. Healey, tested the state's ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. The state ban was styled on the federal assault weapons ban, but, unlike Congress, the Massachusetts Legislature made the ban permanent. Plaintiffs sued in early 2017, arguing that the ban violated the Second Amendment.
The court disagreed. Judge Young wrote that the banned weapons fell outside the core of the Second Amendment and enjoyed no constitutional protection. He declined to apply any level of scrutiny and simply upheld the ban. The court explained:
Consequently, "Heller . . . presents us with a dispositive and relatively easy inquiry: Are the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines 'like' 'M-16 rifles,' i.e., 'weapons that are most useful in military service,' and thus outside the ambit of the Second Amendment?" The undisputed facts in this record convincingly demonstrate that the AR-15 and [large-capacity magazines] banned by the Act are "weapons that are most useful in military service." As a matter of law, these weapons and [large-capacity magazines] thus fall outside the scope of the Second Amendment and may be banned.
The court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the AR-15 is a popular firearm, and therefore enjoys Second Amendment protection:
Yet the AR-15's present day popularity is not constitutionally material. 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. The test is not the AR-15's present day popularity but whether it is a weapon "most useful in military service."
Judge Young went on to quote Justice Scalia from Scalia Speaks.
The court also rejected the plaintiffs' claims that the ban is vague (because it doesn't define what "copies or duplicates" of assault weapons means) and that enforcement violated the Ex Post Facto Clause (because the state attorney general issued a notice that could punish existing ownership of banned weapons).